We all know about Eggnog—whether you love it or hate it, it is impossible to get through the holiday season without being offered a glass or two. Or three or four (try it in hot coffee for a Christmas morning treat). A few years back, my mother-in-law gave us a wonderful old white china punch bowl and mugs, each of which says “Tom & Jerry” in gold letters. When asked, she said “It’s like Eggnog, only better….”
A Tom and Jerry is a traditional Christmas drink in the United States, created by sports writer Pierce Egan in the 1820s. It is a variant of Eggnog, which is traditionally made with rum and served cold. Tom and Jerry adds brandy to the mix and is served hot, usually from a specially produced bowl with matching mugs. Another method uses egg whites, beaten stiff, with the yolks and sugar folded back in, and vanilla extract added. A few spoonfuls are added to a mug, then hot water, rum and brandy are added, and it is topped with nutmeg.
So why would you want to improve on Eggnog, and why add even more hooch to an already boozy beverage? To sell books, of course! The name is not related to the popular cartoon characters as one might think. No, it goes much further back than that! In fact, it is a reference to Egan’s book, Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom (1821), and the subsequent stage play Tom and Jerry, or Life in London. To publicize the book and the play, Egan introduced a variation of Eggnog by adding a shot of brandy, calling it a “Tom and Jerry”. The additional fortification helped popularize the drink…. and sold lots of books! And punchbowls! It also appears in other writers’ works, like in Damon Ruyon’s short story “Dancing Dan’s Christmas” beginning with this passage:
“This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.”
Have a Merry Christmas! (or am I supposed to say, Happy Holiday!)
Tom & Jerry
1/2 oz simple syrup or 1 tsp powdered sugar
1 oz dark rum
1 oz Cognac or brandy
Hot milk or hot water
Grated nutmeg for garnish
Separate the egg white from the egg yolk and beat them separately.
Fold the beaten eggs together and place into an Irish coffee glass.
Add the sugar or simple syrup, dark rum, and brandy.
Fill with hot milk or hot water.
Stir well. Garnish with grated nutmeg.