Tom & Jerry Recipe: A Traditional Warm Milk Punch

Tom and Jerry cocktail in two glasses garnished with star anise

The Spruce

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
225 Calories
4g Fat
9g Carbs
6g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 225
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 96mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 236mg 18%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 301mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The Tom & Jerry is a classic winter cocktail that every explorer of the drink world should try at some point. It's a sweet, frothy, warm beverage flavored with dark rum and cognac, and it's been a holiday favorite since the 1820s. There's no sugarcoating it: The Tom & Jerry is not the easiest drink to make, but it is worth doing. Even though it's a pretty old-fashioned drink, it's still a popular selection around the holidays, particularly in the Midwest.

While this drink is often compared to eggnog, it is a completely different drink. The main difference is that a Tom & Jerry is served warm, and the drink is built in the serving mug. Eggnog, on the other hand, is cold and already mixed and ready to drink; it's also not inherently an alcoholic beverage. However, the Tom & Jerry is a fantastic alternative to eggnog, and many drinkers prefer it because it is more of a warm milk punch and has less of an eggy flavor.

You may find that putting together the Tom & Jerry is much like making a hot buttered rum. It all begins with mixing the spiced batter, which can be refrigerated or frozen in a sealed container until it's time for a drink. You'll have enough batter for 25 drinks. Once ready, it's as simple as pouring warm milk over your liquor and batter. It's a fabulous way to have a tasty hot cocktail at the ready for the holidays.

Ingredients

 For the Tom & Jerry Batter:

  • 12 large eggs, separated

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 2 ounces dark rum

For One Tom & Jerry Drink:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Tom & Jerry batter

  • 1 ounce dark rum

  • 1 ounce brandy (or cognac)

  • 4 to 6 ounces hot milk (or water, or both), to taste

  • Grated nutmeg, garnish

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this cocktail is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation.

To Make the Batter

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Tom & Jerry cocktail batter
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  2. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks and place them in separate bowls.

    Egg yolks and egg whites in two separate bowls
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  3. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and whip with a mixer until you have a meringue-like texture with stiff peaks.

    Egg whites beaten to stiff peaks like meringue
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  4. Add the softened butter and sugar to the bowl of egg yolks and whip until it is fully incorporated and a liquid.

    Softened butter and sugar added to egg whites
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  5. Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.

    Egg yolks folded into egg white mixture for Tom & Jerry cocktail
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  6. Stir in the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and rum. Cover and store the batter in the refrigerator until it's time to make the drink.

    Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and rum added to cocktail batter
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To Make the Tom & Jerry Drink

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for making the Tom and Jerry cocktail
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  2. Preheat the mugs you will use for serving.

    Mug preheated with hot water
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  3. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter, along with 1 ounce each of dark rum and cognac (or brandy) to every mug.

    Spoonful of Tom & Jerry batter added to glass
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  4. Fill with hot milk or hot water (or a combination of the two), stirring constantly until the drink is foamy.

    Tom & Jerry cocktail filled with hot milk
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  5. Garnish with grated nutmeg. Serve and enjoy.

    Fresh grated nutmeg on a Tom & Jerry cocktail
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Why Is It Called a Tom & Jerry?

Cocktail origin stories are typically interesting to trace, and there are often multiple accounts. Contrary to what you might think, this one doesn't refer to the classic cartoon characters. (It's possible the characters reference the drink, but that's up for debate.)


One story says that the drink was named after British journalist Pierce Egan's book "Life in London: Or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq., and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom." A play was staged shortly after its publication in 1821, and it's said that Egan named the drink as a cross-promotion for its debut.


In cocktail historian David Wondrich's book "Imbibe!" (2nd edition, 2015), he makes no mention of Egan. Instead, he recounts the story that "Professor" Jerry Thomas often told, which claimed he named it after two pet mice. Wondrich also points out that this was a barman's tale because Thomas was born in 1830 and would have started bartending in the 1840s. An 1827 article in the Salem Gazette referenced the drink in a court case about a young boy acquitted of stealing, who apparently had been drunk on "Tom and Jerry" at the time.

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs poses a risk of foodborne illness.

Recipe Variations

  • Some recipes skip the spices and vanilla in the batter. In this case, consider garnishing with a mix of ground cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg to spice up the drink.
  • A few of the older recipes use a considerable amount of sugar and skip the butter altogether, typically when mixing the drink with hot water to give it more froth and cream.
  • Other recipes are written without the premade batter. Whipping egg whites is not an easy task, though, so it's smarter to do this in bulk rather than with just an egg or two at a time. Take advantage of the fact that this recipe yields ample batter.

How Strong Is a Tom & Jerry?

There may be two liquors in the Tom & Jerry, but there's also a lot of warm milk, so it's a surprisingly light beverage. On average, it mixes up to 12 percent ABV (24 proof). That's equivalent to a glass of wine, but this drink is far more comforting.