Perhaps your ice cream is a looking a little plain with nothing to top it, or you’d like an egg cream? Either one is glorified by adding chocolate syrup, a mixture of cocoa, sugar, usually high fructose corn syrup, and a variety of other ingredients depending upon the brand. Hershey’s® was one of the first brands to introduce the syrup in the US, starting with a fountain version for adding to egg creams, sodas or milk shakes in 1926, and then producing a canned form for home use two years later. Other companies like Bosco® soon joined in the fray, as chocolate syrup became a popular addition at home and at soda fountains and diners.
There were most likely earlier versions of chocolate syrup, thin glazes of chocolate that might have topped cakes or desserts of various sorts. But companies mass-producing the syrup resulted in huge popularity, and the various brands were used for anything from ice cream toppers to delicious chocolate milk, made simply by mixing chocolate syrup and milk together. Since the syrup was already sweetened, it made making things like hot cocoa or cold chocolate milk much easier. You didn’t have to mess with trying to sweeten cocoa, and thus it cut down on preparation time.
Today’s chocolate syrups come in numerous different types. For instance, you can get ones that instantly form a shell when they come into contact with ice cream to produce a hard chocolate topping. Others are low fat, dietetic, or have additional flavors added. They keep for a good long time in the refrigerator too, unlike the early cans. Thus if you can be sparing with your chocolate syrup, which may be a difficult thing to do, it will usually keep for a few months.
You can’t pretend that chocolate syrup is actually good for you. In fact, as scientists learn more about the negative effects of high fructose corn syrup, it’s quite debatable whether chocolate syrup should be consumed regularly. Still, in competition with other drink mixes like Ovaltine®, some chocolate syrups today are fortified with vitamins and/or minerals. It may make sense for the underweight child to use these, particularly if it raises milk consumption. On the other hand, fortification does not reduce calories for those watching their waistlines. Like any sweet thing, chocolate syrup may be best for occasional indulgence only.
If you don’t have syrup at home, and can’t get to the store, most cookbooks, and certainly the Internet, have recipes for making the syrup at home. It’s usually a combination of white sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and milk or butter. Freshly made hot syrup provides a fantastic hot fudge topping for homemade ice cream, or many would argue, just about anything else you can think of!