Tom and Jerry in a Mug

This probably IS your grandfather’s eggnog.

Photo by Jonnie Anderson on Flickr — CC License 2011

If you want to know more, read on. If you’re just here for a recipe, here it is. Mix away, and Cheers.

The Recipe

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 oz dark rum
  • 3/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 3 or 4 cups hot milk or water
  • 1.5 oz. of bourbon per drink
  • Optional — splash of Cognac

Separate eggs. Beat egg yolks and egg whites separately. Beat sugar and spices with egg yolks until mixed and then pour in rum slowly while stirring. Fold in egg whites and put in the refrigerator until you’re ready to drink.

Fill about 1/4 of a mug with the mixture above, add 1.5 oz. bourbon then fill the remainder of the mug with hot milk or water. Stir until frothy.

If desired, float a splash of Cognac on top.

The Tom and Jerry is an old-fashioned eggnog that was often served in glassware made specifically for that annual purpose. It will warm you with heat, booze, spice, and an unmistakable sense of holiday tradition.

The Experience

The Tom and Jerry brings an even-keeled, subdued festiveness, like a Christmas visit to your favorite aging uncle. You aren’t going to get drunk and start giggling, nor are you going to be brought down into any sort of holiday melancholia. Your uncle has lived a satisfying and fulfilling life, and he just wants to sit and share mildly spicy stories and maybe have a hearty chuckle at some of your modern worries that he needs no part of. His lights are usually dim, his hearth has a warm fire, and his heart is open because all he wants from you is the gift of spending a little time together.

The Tom and Jerry knows you’re not here for the long haul. It fully expects you to get back to your beer and vodka tonics before the week is out, but it appreciates the time and care you give to your infrequent outings. It will reward your attention with deep, rich experience and stories of better times, and will leave you with unique, irreplaceable, and somewhat frothy memories.

’Tis the season for eggnog and it comes in so many different forms, flavors, and choices of milk that it’s hard to nail down. Some egg nogs are heavy, fat-laden drinks that make you think you’re drinking custard, while others are over-boozed barely-nogs that may as well be a straight shot of bourbon (not that I disapprove of a straight shot of bourbon).

All are unmistakably part of the holiday season. You will want to make yourself and your home festive for this drink, and though 2020 may not be the most festive of years, let’s give it a try anyway. Get out a few holiday lights, and maybe a wreath. Nothing too over the top, you’re looking for understated but not pretentious. You don’t need the special glassware, but something with a handle and a festive decor will enhance your experience.

The History

The word nog is generally accepted to have been used since the late1600’s to mean a strong drink, possibly adapted from the name of the wooden cup that it was poured in. In modern times, if you’re using the word nog, you probably are using the word egg in front of it.

The history of our Tom and Jerry is often said to have originated with a man named Pierce Egan to promote a play in 1821. The play was an adaptation of Egan’s book titled Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom (1821). That’s quite a title, and the story goes that Egan took a standard eggnog recipe, added a half ounce of Brandy and called it a Tom and Jerry. I guess that’s what passed for marketing in 1821. Apparently, it worked. The play was a moderate success, and the drink is still being made and consumed during the holiday season.

An alternate version of the origin story says that Jerry Thomas came up with the name in 1862, but since this was about 40 years after Mr. Egan, it is likely that the drink had already been christened. In fact, Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide (1862) has a recipe for a Tom and Jerry that uses a whopping 5 lbs. of sugar per dozen eggs, with an added note at the end that the drink is sometimes called a “Jerry Thomas”. Now THAT’S marketing!

As with many cocktails, the Tom and Jerry has seen a resurgence in modern times. Several notable bars, especially in the Midwest have special glasses, secret recipes for batter, and in the case of one Milwaukee establishment, a designated room for consuming the cocktail. I have not had the pleasure of trying one of these, but I will put it on my post-pandemic list.

What About That Mug?

This is one of those drinks that has its own specialized glassware. I couldn’t find an exact date for the origin of the glassware, but a“Tom and Jerry” bowl is mentioned in a New York Times article as early as 1864. These mugs have a range of sizes, but most have the words “Tom and Jerry” on them somewhere and come with a matching bowl for mixing the batter. I seem to recall having a Tom and Jerry mug as a kid, but I mistakenly thought it was for the cartoon cat and mouse of the same name and not something that an inebriated relative liberated from a bar somewhere in Wisconsin.

It’s a Party

Many recipes for this drink start with 1 dozen eggs. It’s supposed to live up to its lineage as a drink for sharing and celebrating the holidays from a time when fewer people were concerned about their waistlines or lactose intolerance.

Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, having a gathering large enough to drink a dozen eggs, five pounds of liquefied sugar and a bottle of bourbon is ill-advised. And if you decide to drink a dozen eggs all by yourself, God bless, but I hope you get a Stairmaster for Christmas.

Let’s Mix This Thing

The original recipe can be reduced relatively easily and still shared. You might need to break out your third-grade fractions, but as long as you do it before you pour the bourbon, you should be fine.

I adapted my version from a recipe in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948), by David Embury which has a recipe that uses 12 eggs and a half-pound of sugar.

Liquor.com has a recipe that calls for 12 eggs and a full 2 pounds of sugar, which is much too sweet for me but does make a nice thick batter.

My proportions above will make about 4 mugs of nog. More or less depending on how much bourbon you pour.

’Tis the Season, Mix, Drink, and Mix Again

This is one you’ll really have to experiment with (you’re welcome). I found that 1 oz. of bourbon gets lost in the strong spice of the egg mixture, but 1.5 oz. lets me taste it.

Adding the three spices in equal proportions seems to work out quite well. I’m not a proponent of any of these spices over the other, so if you’re a cinnamon lover, then add a pinch more.

I tried both hot water and milk. Milk makes a stronger mixture and benefits from the full 1.5 oz. of Bourbon. If you mix with hot water, you can cut the Bourbon a bit and still have a well-balanced drink.

However you choose to make it and drink it, the Tom and Jerry is a rich, warming experience. And couldn’t we all use a few more of those right now?

Of course, these are one man’s opinions and sanctioned only by me and those who drink at my home bar. Put in the effort to mix up some batter, and try to bring some old-school cheer to your 2020 holiday season. Cheers.

Embury, David, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, Mud Puddle, Inc., 1948

Thomas, Jerry, The Bartender’s Guide, Dick and Fitzgerald Publishers, New York, 1862

Loves writing, loves teaching, and loves his 7-year-old daughter. All of which are potential topics of hopefully entertaining posts.

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