Contrary to popular belief, the drink’s name is not related to the popular MGM cartoon nor was it the brain-child of famous bartender "Professor" Jerry Thomas who authored of one of the first bartender's guides “How to Mix Drinks” in 1862 either. Instead, it is a reference to Pierce Egan's book, “Life in London” and the subsequent stage play “Life in London” (“Tom and Jerry”) circa 1821. To publicize the book and the play, Egan introduced a variation of eggnog by adding ½ fluid ounce of brandy and rum calling it a "Tom and Jerry." The additional fortification helped popularize the drink.
The drink also features prominently in Damon Runyon's 1932 short story "Dancing Dan's Christmas" beginning with the 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.” Runyon’s story, which inspired the Broadway musical “Guys & Dolls,” introduces the drink and a group of New York street characters who, after having a few “cracks” of Hot Tom and Jerry, embark on a goofy adventure to spread holiday cheer while tarnishing the image of Santa Claus in the process.
Tom & Jerry Batter:
- 3 eggs
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Wash the eggs in their shells with mild dish soap before cracking* and separate the egg whites from the yolks. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until they are stiff but not dry. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with sugar, allspice, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Gently fold the yolk into the egg whites trying not to deflate the whites. This is the batter which can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or it can be frozen.
For each drink:
2 tablespoons of Tom & Jerry batter
½ jigger (3/4 ounce) of brandy
1 jigger (1½ ounces) of dark rum
Dollop batter into a mug and add brandy and rum. Top off the mug with the hot water, milk or coffee and gently stir to mix thoroughly and dust each mug with freshly grated nutmeg. To quote Dancing Dan, “you will never taste anything so soothing in your life.”
*The original recipe in “The Joy,” the eggs are used raw. To avoid the threat of salmonella, use the freshest eggs possible and wash the shells before using. You can use pasteurized eggs or you can prepare the batter over a double-boiler if you wish to be extremely cautious.