A Tom & Jerry is a classic winter cocktail and a beverage that every explorer of the drink world should try at some point. It's a sweet, frothy, warm drink that is flavored with dark rum and cognac and it has been a holiday favorite since the 1820s. There's no sugar-coating it: the Tom & Jerry is not the easiest drink to make, but it is worth it.
While this drink is often compared to Eggnog, it is not an eggnog. The main difference is that the 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. The Tom & Jerry is, however, 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 will find that 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 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.
- For the Tom & Jerry Batter:
- 12 eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ounces dark rum
- For the Drink:
- 1 ounce dark rum
- 1 ounce cognac or brandy
- 1 tablespoon Tom & Jerry Batter
- Hot milk or hot water (or both, about 4 ounces total)
- Grated nutmeg for garnish
To Make the Batter:
You can prepare the batter a few hours ahead of time and either freeze or refrigerate it. This recipe includes both cream of tartar and rum in the batter because the tartar keeps the sugars from separating and the rum acts as a preservative. This will allow you to skip the freezer if you like. However, because it does include raw eggs, you do need to take the precautions to keep it cold and avoid salmonella.
- Separate the egg white from the egg yolk and place each into individual 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 mix 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:
This is the easy part and you're almost ready to relax with a steaming mug of this delicious cocktail. If you can pour and stir a drink, you will have no problems making this one.
You do need to pay attention to your milk. When heating milk, you need to do so slowly over a medium-high heat. Do not allow the milk to boil or it will curdle, the same is true if you heat it too quickly. Go nice and slow and your milk will come out fine.
- Pre-heat the mugs you will use for serving the Tom & Jerry.
- Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter and 1 ounce each dark rum and brandy to each mug.
- Fill with hot milk or water (or a combination of the two), stirring constantly until the drink is foamy.
- Garnish with grated nutmeg.
More Tips for Making the Tom & Jerry
The Tom & Jerry is best with hot milk and it makes the drink thicker than if you were to opt for hot water. You can also do a 1:1 mix of milk and water if you prefer. If you enjoy non-dairy milk alternatives, like soy or almond milk, those can be used as well.
There are many recipes for the Tom & Jerry and each puts their own spin on the mix.
- 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 (sometimes up to 5 pounds as in "Professor" Jerry Thomas' recipe) and skip the butter. This is used most often when mixing the drink with hot water to give it more froth and cream.
- Others are written without the pre-made batter. However, whipping egg whites is not an easy task, so it's best to do this in bulk rather than with just an egg or two.
Feel free to adapt this recipe to your own taste.
In the Midwest, it is very common to find pre-mixed Tom & Jerry batter. However, just as it is with Eggnog, a made-from-scratch drink is often much better.
Serving With the Tom & Jerry Punch Set
It is very common for the Tom & Jerry to be served in a 'Tom & Jerry punch set.' These include a small punch bowl for holding the batter and matching mugs. The pieces are most often in white ceramic with 'Tom & Jerry' written on them. Sometimes you can find a bowl with a lid as well.
This is a great way to serve the drink for a party and they often have a fantastic vintage style. You can find Tom & Jerry sets on the used market and the drink's resurgence in recent years has prompted some companies to revive the punch set and offer new versions for sale.