Tom and Jerry (Jerry Thomas Recipe)

  • Base Spirit Brandy
  • Preparation Batter
  • Flavor Holiday Flavors
  • Served Hot

At it’s core, the Tom & Jerry is comprised of a rich batter, essentially akin to a whipped eggnog combined with cognac and/or rum and hot water.. Think about drinking hot, sugary pancake batter. Some people use whole milk instead of water, but the recipe has stayed relatively unchanged over the years—the backstory has not.

Golden Age bartending guru, Jerry Thomas successfully propagated the myth that the drink was his creation (and named in his own honor). However, the true creator of the libation was British writer Pierce Egan. In 1821, Egan’s book, Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom was tearing up the charts. In fact, the book proved so popular that Egan sold the coveted theatrical rights; a stage adaptation titled Tom and Jerry, or Life in London was the talk of London’s West End the same year. Fun fact: The title was a double-entendre ad Tom and Jerry was an old English phrase for hitting the town hard… The work also popularized the phrase “three sheets to the wind.” Anyway, Egan created one of the earliest known branded drink specials. He created a drink, the Tom and Jerry, named after his book on drinking.

However, Egan’s early cross-marketing was nothing compared to the self promotion of the “Professor,” Jerry Thomas. Despite the preceding evidence to the contrary, Thomas proudly professed to have created the libation, himself, in 1847. No stranger to the press, Thomas offered several interviews about the origins, the most famous being z recounting in Englishman Alan Dale’s 1885 homage to America, Jonathon’s Home. In that telling, Thomas first notes that his youth was spent at sea around California and then recounts that on one incident a man requested of him a drink of egg beaten with sugar. Naturally, Thomas thought the concoction would be better with brandy. Thomas told his guest, “If you’ll only bear with me for five minutes, I’ll fix you a drink that’ll do your heartstrings good.” Within the allotted timeframe, the Tom and Jerry was born—according to the fabricated legend.

Thomas alleged that the success of “his” hot drink was directly responsible for the invention of several of his other classics including the Blue Blazer, Buck and Brick, and Lamb’s-Wool. “After the invention of the ‘Tom and Jerry,’ I got inspired and had large confidence in myself,” he told Dale. “Men came to me when they wanted anything extra good, and I felt my obligations to be sacred, and that I had incurred responsibilities which made it necessary for me to go on doing well.”

Check out the Professor’s original recipe below in his own words. For more on the Tom and Jerry, here’s a full history.

Print Recipe
Tom and Jerry (Jerry Thomas Specs)
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Batter
  1. Beat the white of the eggs to a stiff froth, and the yolks of the eggs until they are as thin as water, and then mix together and add the spice and the rum, thicken with sugar until the mixture attains the consistence of a light batter.
To Deal Out Tom and Jerry to Customers:
  1. Take a small bar glass and one table-spoonful of the above mixture, add one wine-glass brandy, and fill the glass with boiling water, grate a little nutmeg on top.
  2. Adepts at the bar, in serving the Tom and Jerry, sometimes adopt a mixture of 1/2 brandy, 1/4 Jamaican rum, 1/4 Santa Cruz rum, instead of brandy plain. This compound is normally mixed and kept in a bottle, and a wine-glassful is used to each tumbler of Tom and Jerry.
  3. N.B. -- A tea-spoonful of cream of tartar, or about as much carbonate of soda as you can get on a dime, will prevent sugar from settling to the bottom of the mixture.
  4. This drink is sometimes called the Copenhagen and sometimes called the Jerry Thomas.
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