AKA Smith and Kearns, this tastes like a boozy chocolate egg cream
This drink goes by many names. It’s often called the Smith and Kearns, the Smith and Kearn (or Kern), or the Smith and Currans. Different monikers, same drink.
But its proper name is the Smith and Curran. That’s because it was named after two oilmen, Wendell Smith and James Curran. Over the years, people apparently misheard “Curran” as “Kearns.” Hence the differing names. But no matter what you call it, this is a great drink.
More cocktail history later. Right now, let’s learn how to make one of these lovelies.
Recipe: The Smith and Curran Cocktail
This drink combines crème de cacao with cream (or half-and-half, which is known as “half cream” in the UK) and a bit of soda water. Crème de cacao comes in white (clear) and dark (brown) versions. They taste much the same, so you can use either one. We think this cocktail looks better when made with dark crème de cacao, so that’s what we use.
Many recipes substitute a coffee liqueur (like Kahlua) for crème de cacao. That’s not the original recipe, but it’s a might tasty variation. So substitute away, if that’s your preference.
BTW, this isn’t a particularly “strong” drink. Crème de cacao typically has an alcohol content of about 50 proof, and Kahlua about 40 proof. So you’re not going to get tipsy on one or two of these.
We first learned about this drink (and its history) from an Eric Felten article in the September 23, 2006 Wall Street Journal. We like Felten’s recipe, and haven’t changed a thing.
This is a drink that we “build” in the glass rather than mix in a shaker (see Notes).
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 2 ounces crème de cacao (light or dark, though we think the dark looks better; may substitute Kahlua if you prefer)
- 1 ounce cream or half-and-half (cream is the original and tastes better; see Notes)
- ~½ ounce seltzer or soda water (you may want a bit more; this is very much to taste)
- Fill a tall glass or a small rocks glass (10 ounces is the perfect size; see Notes) with ice. Add the crème de cacao, then the cream. Add the seltzer, then stir briefly—enough to mix the ingredients, but not so much that you lose all the fizz from the seltzer (see Notes).
- Serve with a straw.
- A 10-ounce tall glass will allow about an inch of headroom—the space between the top of the drink and the rim of the glass—once the glass is filled with ice and the ingredients are added. You can get by with an 8-ounce glass, but you’ll be filling it close to the rim. A larger glass will work, though you’ll be left with a couple inches of headroom.
- If you like tall drinks and don’t have 10-ounce glasses, you may want to purchase a few. It’s really the perfect size for many drinks.
- The original recipe for this drink specified cream, and we think that version tastes better than one made with half-and-half.
- That said, however, if you substitute Kahlua for crème de cacao, we think the drink tastes better with half-and-half. And increase the amount to two ounces—the flavor is better balanced.
- Do stir the drink enough to mix all the ingredients. The pictures show the drink minimally stirred (because it’s prettier that way).
- If you stir too much, you may diminish the fizziness of the seltzer. If that happens, just add an additional splash of seltzer before serving.
- Any good liquor store carries crème de cacao. DeKuyper is the brand you’re most likely to find, and it is decent quality. A bottle costs around $10 to $12. Marie Brizard makes a crème de cacao that’s a step or two up in quality, though it costs at least twice as much as DeKuyper. But if you like crème de cacao and use it a lot, Marie Brizard is worth seeking out.
- BTW, as always when we mention brands, we recommend only what we like. We buy our booze with our own money, and nobody compensates us to mention a brand.
- When mixing most cocktails, we add the ingredients to a container, shake or stir them, then strain into a serving glass. It’s different with “built” cocktails: For these, we add ingredients directly to the serving glass, one at a time (sometimes stirring them a bit).
- The origins of most cocktails are sketchy at best. But we know exactly where and when the Smith and Curran Cocktail was invented: It was at the Blue Blazer Lounge in the Prince Hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. In 1952.
- As Eric Felten notes, North Dakota experienced an oil boom during the early 1950s. Oilmen crowded into the state, hoping to strike it rich. Bismarck, the state’s capital, housed headquarters for many of the oil operations.
- Wendell Smith and James Curran were partners during the North Dakota oil surge, and their office was on the second floor of the Prince Hotel. But they spent plenty of time downstairs drinking at the Blue Blazer Lounge.
- One day in 1952 they challenged the bartender at the Blue Blazer—Gebert “Shorty” Doebber—to come up with a soothing “hair of the dog” concoction for them. Seems they had stayed too late at the Blue Blazer the night before, oversampling Shorty’s wares. So they were feeling poorly the next day.
- The Smith and Curran is what Shorty devised. It quickly became a favorite drink of the oilmen who crowded into the Blue Blazer daily. And because oilmen tend to travel, they spread word of the drink around the world. So these days, anywhere you find oilmen, you’ll probably find the Smith and Curran (under one of its many names).
- As Felten observes, this may seem like an odd drink for oilmen to adopt. Petroleum is a rough and tough business, after all, populated by rough and tough people. The kind of people you’d think would turn up their noses at a sweet, frothy drink without a lot of booze. Go figure.
Happy New Year
“Wow,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Boozy chocolate milk.”
“Sure beats Ovaltine,” I said.
“And perfect for starting the new year, especially with oil prices below $50 a barrel,” said Mrs K R.
“Though the oil men who made this drink popular may not be too pleased,” I added.
“Well, they can drink this to console themselves,” said Mrs K R.
“So win win,” I said. “Shall we have another?”
“Yup,” said Mrs K R. “I like to start the year well oiled.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Milk Punch Cocktail
Twentieth Century Cocktail
Or check out the index for more
My father loves egg creams and he would probably love this. I do think I shall save it though, just for me. Never thought I'd ever see oil prices this low again, so I guess I'll use this to celebrate! Happy New Year, John!
Hi Mr. and Mrs:) Happy New Year!
Gee, my son-in-law, Jason, will have learn about this drink for sure. He is one the modern day oil men working up in North Dakota "as we speak." Although, he happens to be off this week:)
When I first looked at this drink I thought it was a Pousse Café, I hope I'm writing that correctly. It's so pretty and has all the right ingredients for this gal's taste buds. I'm not cocktailing it much these days but I tell ya, this drink will be my next bit of enjoyment.
I love that it has a history, story and a year. If we could only find an exact date, I could put it on the calendar, lol...btw John, did you see your link on Drinking Straw Day for January 3rd?
Thank you so much for providing us with this drink and all the makins' John. Definitely a keeper!!!
Happy New Year, John! This looks beautiful and so delicious. Yes, let's celebrate those oil prices. I would probably use the Kahlua though as I love that stuff! I love your blog also :)
Mmmm.... this looks good, maybe like something I would have had at the soda fountain during the the 50's, but with more pzazz. John, my Wordpress end-of-year report said that again you made the most comments on my blog over the year (never missing to comment on my posts) so THANK YOU so much for your support!
Hi Abbe, I haven't had a good egg cream in years! Need to make one. Although now that I've had this, I'll bet it'll be hard to go back to a regular egg cream. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Oh wow, I love this! I'm glad you left it unstirred in the photo, it's gorgeous!
Hi Louise, this is the perfect drink for Jason! And this does look a bit like a Pousse Café -- and I need to do one of those someday (I learned about those from Eric Felten, too -- he's a fun read, and has a book out). I missed the Drinking Straw Day link -- I'll have to go look for it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Sue, the drink is really pretty when it's only partially stirred, isn't it? I just had to photograph them this way! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, oil prices are definitely worth celebrating. If you're not in the oil biz. ;) Thanks for the comment!
Hi Fran, this does look like a soda fountain drink, doesn't it? And I love your blog, so of course I visit it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
A gorgeous and super delicious drink. Who wouldn't love a boozy chocolate egg cream?
My jaw dropped when I saw the price this week at Costco it was 1.89!!!! can you believe it!! although this is not good for ppl working in the oil industry :(. Your drink looks amazing with these beautiful layers, I bet I can make a non-alcoholic version of this. Happy new year.
Happy New Year!!! This drink looks lovely! What a great and gorgeous cocktail, and thank you so much for sharing this recipe :)
Hi Denise, this really is a good one. A whole lot of flavor, and really great looks. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, isn't the price of gasoline amazing? Haven't seen that in ages. Anyway, I'll bet it would be easy to make a non-alcoholic version of this -- you could substitute weak sweetened cocoa for the booze. Or maybe do something with coffee -- a lot of possibilities. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Dana, isn't this a fun drink? Definitely worth a try. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Ahhh, this drink reminds me of my mother. It was the drink she could never quite remember the name of "the one that sounds like a law firm". Oilmen not lawyers, go figure. Thanks for this. Wishing you and yours the happiest of Happy New Years.
I sure am glad those oilmen did not turn their noses up at a sweet, frothy drink without a lot of booze cos this is gorgeous! John, I don't drink, but I love reading your cocktail drink posts as you always have a story behind it and I love stories! Thanks so much for sharing this one!
Smith and Curran....very oil men like or a steakhouse! As always, I'm intrigued by the stories behind the drinks. This one is beautiful, but they all are, and your photos are always stunning. Happy New Year, John!
MMMM, crème de cacao sounds heavenly! I have never tried it!
Hi John , what a delicious and delightful drink , can't wait to try it . I do so hope the weather gets better so I can pitch my tent by the shed Hahahaha! John I love the link on Louise calendar , just great . Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful cocktail . Happy New John / Mrs. KR ... Nee :)
Happy New Year to you and Mrs. Riffs. Welcome back from your holiday season, which I hope was fabulous! When I saw the photo of your drink, I have been longing for this one. I am very familiar with crème de cacao, and the cream. My favorite is a "Sombrero" made with Kahlua and half n half over ice. I also love Baileys Irish Cream on the rocks. I enjoy reading all of the history on the Smith and Curran Cocktail. Thanks for sharing and Cin Cin! Have a great rest of the week.
Welcome back, John, and you do make cocktails look very inviting. This is certainly better than a cup of Milo! This cocktail has a great story behind it as most of them do tend to have. Love your cocktail glass! xx
This is MY kind of cocktail---one that won't have me weaving after half a glass! Besides sounding scrumptious, it makes a gorgeous presentation. Happy New Year, John.
I had something similar recently as a dessert. It was an ice cream soda. They mixed the crème de cacao dark with some cream, added the fizzy and plopped some ice cream in the top, dusted it with cocoa powder and a sprig of mint and handed it over. It was so good in the heat. I didn't know I liked this but I do now, even without the ice cream.
Another wonderful drink, John! You had me at boozy chocolate egg cream. YUM! Happy New Year!!
Hi Melinda, this does sound like a law firm! ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Shashi, I never drank cocktails until I started reading some of the stories behind them. They're fascinating! The drinks are great too, of course, but the stories alone are worth hearing. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nazneen, it does sound like a steak house. ;-) Thanks for the kind comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Kristi, I'll bet you'd like crème de cacao -- really nice, subtle flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, way to cold to pitch your tent right now! And the link in Louise's calendar is fun. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Dottie, I know abut the Sombrero, although I've never made it before. I need to -- next month's drink will be similar to a Sombrero. ;-) Which is of course similar to this drink. Which is somewhat similar to the Milk Punch we did just before Christmas. Think there's a theme here? :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Charlie, much better than a cup of Milo! I love the story behind this drink -- so interesting. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, this really isn't a strong drink at all. I'd guess you could easily have one, maybe two. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Marueen, that sounds like a great dessert! And this is almost dessert in a glass. Like the idea of the cocoa powder garnish. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amy, this really is a fun drink -- and sure looks (and tastes) rather like an egg cream. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
So true this is hardly what you would consider as the perfect drink for oilmen. Perhaps at the end of the day they like to feel civilised too and this is a lovely light blend with a whack of Kahlua (it is good how you mention your preferred brand) with a lovely twist. Very nice, Happy New Year to you John and Mrs MKR :D
"Boozy chocolate milk'' sounds pretty irresistible to me! But then I love anything with Kahlua in it.
A drink made in 5 minutes is a-okay with me. Especially when it looks this good :)
Firstly, happy new year John and Mrs KR! And now, OMG! I will have two to go please. Yum!
Another great drink and story. Wondering if you think ice cream would be good in this, kind of like an after dinner drink dessert? Happy 2015 to you and the Mrs. Thanks Cheri
This cocktail is chocolaty and creamy... Sounds very boozlicious to me!!!
Well, now that is interesting that this came from the oil fields. It does seem a little fancy for oilmen, but it also seems like a soothing drink with a kick of coffee flavor that would be nice at the end of a hard day. I've seen it before, but had no idea what it was called. After having enjoyed your milk punch cocktail during the holidays and loving it, I'm now wanting to pick up a bottle of creme de cocoa. Thanks for another great one John!
Hi Carolyn, it definitely is irresistible. At least we can't resist it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cathleen, if you have your ingredients all ready to go you can actually make this in a minute. ;-) But it always takes me time to assemble ingredients, glasses, etc. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzy, two coming up! ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Cheri, I think ice cream would be a fun addition to this. Scroll up a few comments and see Maureen's comment -- she's had a similar drink with ice cream. Sounds good! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Zoe, it's really delish! And boozilicious. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, this just doesn't fit with oil fields, does it? But then it was meant as a "hair of the dog" drink, and those are sometimes offbeat. Glad you enjoyed the milk punch! That's a fun drink, isn't it? And this one is somewhat similar. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Merryn, it does seem an odd drink for oilmen, but it's such a good drink anyone would like it! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
That looks & sounds fantastic!!
What a great way to bring in 2015 John! Thank goodness those oilmen were thirsty so we could have a little too. You know before you mix the drink it is kind of like oil and water and how they don't mix and this is what makes it such an exciting drink to be served. I guess the oilmen's word of mouth is what social media is us today. So going to do my part by sharing your lovely Smith and Corran Cocktail. Take Care
ooooh, what a pleasant drink to kick back with! Thanks for offering to make me one ;)
Hehe for the oil jokes! But seriously--cheers to a boozy chocolate milk, eh? Happy new year, John!
I would have thought the oilmen would have gone for whiskey and/or beer! I do remember (back in the day) my father (who was a Scotch man) making this for the family over the holidays (when we were legal - which was at 18 yrs old - back in the day). It's kind of a sweet, celebratory dessert!
Hi Taruna, it is, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bam, it is like oil and water before you mix this drink -- the ingredients have different densities, so they'll float one each other.Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Hungry Mum, I'll be delighted to make you one! You'll enjoy it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ala, this really is like boozy chocolate milk/egg cream. Good stuff! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Claudia, this does seem a lot like a dessert drink. And it really doesn't fit in with what most of us think oil men would drink! Although I suspect this isn't really the usual drink for most. Just an occasional thing. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
It looks so pretty and delicious!
This looks like quite a treat - dessert and cocktail all in one!
I loved it the minute I saw the picture. Kind of Siamese drink. But I loved it even more when I saw the simple ingredients. BUT most of all I love the history and then the punch line pun
at the end. I am a sucker for puns.
IT SOUNDS MAGICAL!
This drink sounds very creamy. Happy New year to you and your family John!
This sounds right up my alley! Thanks, Rocquie
Hi Pam, it definitely is both of those. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, it really is a grown up dessert! Really tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carol, it is kinda Siamese, now that you draw my attention to it! ;-) It's a fun drink. And we're (obviously) suckers for puns, too. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bec, it is, it is! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Peachy, it is creamy -- really delish stuff. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Rocquie, it's a great drink -- loads of flavor, and very refreshing. Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful drink, and as usual, beautiful photo. This sounds right up my alley. Strong drinks never appealed to me, so this is perfect.
Hi Karen, this really is a light drink in terms of alcohol (although the cream makes it rather rich). So it's perfect for when you don't want something too strong. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I don't need to be tipsy. I love chocolately boozy drinks! You're so good at t his, John!!!
Julie & Alesah
Gourmet Getaways xx
I thought this was genuinely an ice cream soda with an alcoholic twist, but it is even richer :D
I love a good solid drink!
Choc Chip Uru
This is such a beautiful,frothy and gorgeous drink....we love the bit of history you share for every delicious cocktail....will be concocting this for an upcoming get together with friends...have to use non-alchoholic ingredients..this sip is so stunning to look at and is versatile too...something we will be needing all times,thanks so much :-)
I'd say it sure beats Ovaltine .. too funny. It's an absolutely beautiful drink. Nice photo John and thanks for the history and explanation of the drink. I've heard of it before but would never have knows the correct term.
Hi Julie & Alesah, if you like chocolately boozy drinks, this one has your number! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Uru, you'd love this drink! I mean, chocolate -- one of the major food groups. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kumar, this is a drink I think you could pretty easily convert to a non-alcoholic one. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, isn't the history of this fun? And yes, better than Ovaltine! Thanks for the comment.
A couple nights ago, I made myself a white Russian. It was good, but still wasn't exactly what I had a taste for. Last night, it was a black Russian. Getting closer, but not quite there. Enter your Smith and Curran. Sold. Here's to oil prices.
Hi Rosemary, this is really similar to a White Russian (which will be appearing on the blog next month!), but much, much less boozy. And if you use the crème de cacao, different flavor profile, too. The seltzer adds a nice bit of lightness, too. Thanks for the comment.
I'm sure this tastes amazing but let's talk about how sexy it looks! Loving those color changes in the glass!
Hi Pamela, it's a great looking drink, isn't it? Fun to photograph! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh my God! I can't get over how sexy this drink looks! Absolutely stunning! Hope you are having a great start to the New Year!
Hi Ansh, isn't this nice? Looks great, tastes even better. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Freeze that and I will lick it like ice cream! LOL!
OH WOW! I love this sexy drink! Looks amazing!
PS. I'm organizing a chocolate contest on my blog. Maybe you'd like to join? :)
Hi GiGi, you know, the alcohol content of this is low enough I'll bet it'd freeze! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcela, isn't this nice? I'll have to check out your chocolate contest! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Happy New Year John! This drink looks delicious, my husband will love this...I like the idea of the fizz...some how refreshing and rich!
Have a great weekend :)
Hi Juliana, Happy New Year! The fizz really gives this drink an added pizzazz. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm glad this isn't a particularly strong cocktail. Because I actually have the problem that I drink cocktails far too fast - and too much (goes without saying!) - so at least I won't have to worry with this one because it looks like one that will go down really REALLY quickly!!
Hi Nagi, this is the perfect cocktail for you! Particularly since the first one really will go down quickly. ;-) The cream makes this pretty rich, though, so there's a limit on how many of these you can drink -- they're rather filling. Thanks for the comment.
What a beautiful drink! And I was thinking exactly the same as you, that it seemed an unlikely choice for oil men. Great story.
Looks like a nice and creamy cocktail.
Hi Beth, isn't this pretty? Those oil men sure know how to pick them. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Raymund, the flavor of this is really wonderful. And it looks good, too! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi John and Happy New Year to you and Mrs. KR! (I like her style, I like to start the new year well oiled too!). I love creamy cocktails and this looks especially yummy. Who doesn't love an egg cream with a kick? Hope you have a wonderful year! : )
Hi Anne, Mrs KR definitely has style, doesn't she? ;-) This is a wonderful drink -- definitely worth trying. IMO, of course! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
This looks so delicious and elegant. Definitely win-win!!!!!
Hi Debra, isn't this a great looking drink? And its flavor is wonderful! Thanks for the comment.
That is a celebratory drink. I am a social drinker and I surely would have a couple of these beauties. I enjoy your drink post quite a bit.
Hi Asha, this cocktail really is a beauty, isn't it? And I agree it's a celebratory drink! Thanks for the comment.
Never had coconut cream cocktail before, tempting to try!!!
Hi Dedy, this is a really good drink -- such a lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Ha! I'll bet it IS better than Ovaltine. Much better. Gorgeous shot and appreciate ALL the notes. Just learned this year that egg creams have no eggs: fun drink - with a loooong history.
I love the look of this cocktail! I don't know too many "creamy" cocktail I think. Definitely want to taste this one. I've learned so many new cocktail recipes from you, John! Love how you teach us each recipe with delicious and good looking drinks!
Hi Serena, isn't the history behind this drink fun? And yes, it's much better than Ovaltine. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nami, this is a really good drink for you, I think -- not too boozy, but tons and tons of flavor. Plus it looks great! Thanks for the comment.
How good does that frothy top look! Again, your notes are brilliant. Despite a stint as a cocktail bartender (working to a list though) I have never seen one of these. Looks brilliant.
Hi Nicole, I don't think this drink is generally all that popular (outside of the oil field, that is). It should be better known -- it's wonderful! Thanks for the comment.
This is totally right up my alley! I used to drink paralyzers back in the day, coke, kahlua, cream.. something like that. Loved those!!
Hi Smidge, haven't heard of that drink! I should look into it. ;-) You should definitely try a Smith and Currans -- such great flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Gorgeous! I've never heard of Smith and currans before. Gotta give it a try :)
Hi Kiran, it's really good! And very refreshing. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Perfect Winter cocktail. Love the addition of the seltzer water, very unique. Yum, Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, this is a really good drink -- definitely worth trying sometime. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I used to make (and drink) these back in the 70s when I started bartending. It is funny how so many of the drinks I made then are again so popular -- and fill the cocktail list at the bar I opened three years ago. The kids love 'em.
But for me it's history, now just as it was then. I had good tutelage then, and kept going until I exhausted the last shred of a chance of ever using my two degrees and eight years of college. I guess I'm just a bartender... Oh well. Could be worse.
Hi Bob, this drink has been around quite some time, hasn't it? Don't think it's all that popular now, although it should be. :-) Thanks for your comment.
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