When it comes to classic cocktails, we like to cover ’em all. Even ones so often crammed into a seasonal box, like the Tom and Jerry.
This drink has long been associated with the blinking lights and mistletoe of the holidays. Yet, we find that the creamy British invention carries intrigue almost year round, and especially so now that the nights are getting a tad bit chillier. Sure, we prefer a Mojito or a Dark and Stormy on a balmy afternoon, but come night-time, especially just before bed, the Tom and Jerry is a real boozy triumph.
The drink goes back to the early 1820s, when an English sportswriter named Pierce Egan popularized it. The name is a reference to a book he wrote and Egan decided to concoct a drink that would help publicize the publication. It ended being a Christmastime classic, adored and served by the likes of former U.S. President Warren Harding at festive parties.
Essentially a riff on a good old fashioned eggnog and brandy, the Tom and Jerry can be made several ways. These days, especially in the Midwest, you can buy pre-made batters that you simply add hooch to. In cocktail land, however, simple is not often best. We have a few pro tips for you when it comes to making the 200-year-old drink.
We won’t beat around the bush, this is a sweet, dessert-like drink. There is ample sugar involved, not to mention vanilla and egg. You can lighten things up a bit with lower fat milk or even by diluting a bit with hot water. Yet, we prefer to go whole hog, even if that means just having one as a nightcap (and as a means of watching your weight).
You’ll want a nice dark rum for the task here, something that can stand up to the egg. Within the brandy family, Cognac is an excellent choice for a Tom and Jerry. Also, don’t be afraid to try an Eaux-de-Vie of some kind, especially one made with a preferred fruit flavor (think pear or plum).
There are some other things to keep in mind. First, you’re dealing with batter here, aka raw eggs. Use the batter while it’s fresh or refrigerate immediately. As the recipe below suggests, warm your mug beforehand. Also, this is a drink that can really be dressed up in terms of garnishes, so don’t be bashful. Nutmeg is great but star anise also adds some flair. Throw in a cinnamon stick for a bit of spice or drizzle a coffee liqueur float on the top.
This version is borrowed from drinks journalist and Times contributor Robert Simonson. It blends a generous amount of baking spices, along with an even balance of rum and brandy, in this case, Cognac.
- 1 oz añejo rum
- 6 eggs (yolks and whites separated)
- 1 lb sugar
- 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
- .75 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- .25 teaspoon ground allspice
- .25 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- .25 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 6 oz milk
- 1 oz añejo rum
- 1 oz V.S. Cognac
- In a bowl, beat egg yolks until they are as thin as water. While beating, gradually add sugar, rum, vanilla, spices and bitters. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into yolk mixture. If not using immediately, refrigerate batter.
- In a small saucepan, bring milk to boil. Meanwhile, warm a roughly 10-ounce Irish coffee mug in the oven. Pour in 2 ounces batter. Add 1 ounce rum and 1 ounce Cognac. Fill with boiling milk, stirring briskly with a small whisk while adding, so batter and milk are well mixed. Dust with nutmeg.
Read more: Best Rums for Mixing
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