Every year after the turkey and trimmings have been consumed and about the time everyone starts to get hungry for pie, someone will break out the mixer and the hot water and make up a big batch of hot drinks called the Tom and Jerry. For us, breaking out the Tom and Jerry drinks is officially the start of the Christmas season, as our tradition is to start decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, and the Tom and Jerry’s will keep flowing at family event until after the New Year.
Originally created back in the 1850’s as a winter cocktail at St. Louis’s Planter House Hotel by Jerry Thomas, who authored the first cocktail book Bar-Tender’s Guide, How to Mix Drinks back in 1862 and who was considered the godfather of American mixology. The Tom and Jerry is a steamy sweet drink spiked with brandy and rum and topped with a big aromatic burst of nutmeg, that was likely inspired by a boozy version of English egg nog that is commonly served around the Holidays. The warm drink full of spices and aromatics is perfect sipping on a cold winter’s night, so the Tom and Jerry quickly gained favor at saloons and bars with drinkers who wanted a warming tipple.
In our family, the Tom and Jerry was one of Mr. Nom’s grandparents favorite holiday drinks (they even had the little white china mugs that said Tom and Jerry on them!) and they were always the ones who made the batter, and at family gatherings at the grandparent’s house meant that at some point Tom and Jerry’s would be served for all (virgin drinks for the kids of course!) When we started hosting family gatherings, we decided that we needed to keep up this tradition and serve mugs of Tom and Jerry to our family.
We could have used the recipe that the grandparents used, but as is our typical path when looking at drinks for the blog, we do a little research in finding the right recipe. While we have always enjoyed the Tom and Jerry’s served at our family gatherings, one commonly heard complaint was that the drink was way too sweet. We were looking in our copy of the Bar-Tender’s Guide and the original recipe sounded delicious, and definitely not nearly as sweet. Since we are big on trying out the classic cocktails, we decided to serve our version original recipe this year and do a taste test at our Thanksgiving gathering versus the sweet recipe that had been served for many years.
The original recipe calls for a a somewhat laborious process to make the batter, separating the eggs and fluffing the whites into a pillowy foam like a meringue while also foaming milk on the stove. While this sounds like a pain, the results are well worth it when you are sipping your deliciously steaming mug of rich boozy foam! Using brandy and rum to add in a big boozy base, the rich fluffy batter and frothy milk is like a spicy aromatic version of an egg nog latte! When we served our version to our guests, they all responded that they liked our version, especially how much more balanced and rich our version was. Cheers!
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- pinch each of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg
- brandy, rum, or a combination of both
- hot water
- hot milk
- Separate eggs, whites and yolks in separate bowls.
- Whip whites in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer.
- When thickened slightly, add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 1 spoonful at a time. Continue whipping whites until stiff peaks form.
- Mix yolks and remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
- When whites are stiffened, add yolk mix to whites and fold to combine.
- When making cocktails, add batter into cup, around 1/4 cup, then brandy and rum.
- We used 1 oz brandy and 1/2 oz rum, but you can use whichever combination you like the best. Add at least 4 oz hot milk, then top off mug with hot water if desired.
- You can add as much milk as you like, more makes it creamier.
- Add grated nutmeg on top for a garnish.
- Stir slightly to combine. Cheers!