Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously declared, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup…
- Base Spirit Cognac (or Whiskey)
- 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, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their rambles and sprees through the Metropolis 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 cross-marketing was nothing compared to the self promotion of the “Professor,” Jerry Thomas. Despite evidence to the contrary, Thomas professed to have created the libation in 1847. No stranger to the press, Thomas offered several interviews about the origins, the most famous being the recounting in Englishman Alan Dale’s 1885 homage to America, Jonathon’s Home. Thomas claimed 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.”
What is known is the drink blew up in popularity over the next 50 years. So, much so, that dedicated ceramic punch bowl and mug sets became a common entertaining accessory across the United States. Due to the parallels to eggnog, not mention the hot nature, Tom and Jerry became the defacto holiday treat.
Warren Harding loved the battered brandy mixture and served them at White House Christmas parties. In 1931, Damon Runyon waxed poetic on the hot treat in his Dancing Dan’s Christmas. And, in the 1951 Billy Wilder classic, The Apartment, Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter keeps a bowl of Tom and Jerry batter in his fridge.
Like so many classic cocktails, the Tom and Jerry faded from public sight as the 20th century dripped away only to make a comeback during the much ballyhooed Cocktail Renaissance. 2017 James Bear Award winner, Arnaud’s French 75, traditionally serves the drink beginning on the first night that the bar is decorated for Christmas.“Life in London was pretty wild, but Jeremiah and his Corinthian friend would not be bored in New Orleans,” Head bartender Chris Hannah told Neat Pour. “That said, we love serving the Tom and Jerrys during the holidays. Regulars return annually for them, it’s become a tradition for staff and guests alike.”
The spec that follow are direct from the legendary New Orleans barman, himself. For more on the Tom and Jerry, check out this history.
- Separate the eggs. Reserve the yolks.
- Beat the egg whites until peaks form. Then, add 0.5 cup of the sugar and beat until peaks form again.
- Add the yolks to the mix and continue beating.
- Add the rest of the sugar and the vanilla. And, keep on beating until incorporated.
- Stir in the half and half.
- Pour 1.5 oz. of cognac (or whiskey) into your favorite seasonal mug (or official Tom & Jerry set).
- Pour in 3 oz. hot water.
- Spoon 2 oz. of the batter on top.
- Grat nutmeg on top.