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 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. At that point, 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 holiday visitors and parties. This recipe will feed those visitors, and then some.
- For the Tom & Jerry Batter:
- 12 eggs (separated)
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (softened)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ounces rum (dark)
- For the Drink:
- 1 tablespoon Tom & Jerry batter
- 1 ounce rum (dark)
- 1 ounce cognac (or brandy)
- 4 ounces milk (hot; or hot water, or both)
- Garnish: grated nutmeg
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
Gather the ingredients.
Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks and place them in separate bowls.
Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and whip with a mixer until you have a meringue-like texture with stiff peaks.
Add the softened butter and sugar to the bowl of egg yolks and whip until it is fully incorporated and a liquid.
Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.
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.
To Make the Tom & Jerry Drink
Gather the ingredients.
Preheat the mugs you will use for serving.
Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter, along with 1 ounce each of dark rum and brandy to every mug.
Fill with hot milk or water (or a combination of the two), stirring constantly until the drink is foamy.
Garnish with grated nutmeg. Serve and enjoy!
Why Is It Called a Tom and Jerry?
Cocktail origin stories are typically interesting to trace and 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.)
The cocktail is reputedly named after British journalist Pierre Egan's book Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom. A play was staged shortly after its publication in 1821 and, in what has to be one of the earliest examples of cross-promotion, Egan named the Tom and Jerry drink after its main characters.
Raw Egg Warning
Consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.
- 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.
- Others 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.