A cold-climate favorite known as a “Tom and Jerry” is the throwback your holiday party is missing
As the holiday season returns there’s one thing we can all look forward to, regardless of which holidays you celebrate: family fights. No, not about money, politics or perceived slights; I’m talking about a much older, much nastier battle that has divided homes for ages:
Whether eggnog is good or garbage.
Regardless of how you feel (and, let’s be clear, the correct answer is “eggnog is garbage”), this year, keep the peace by making a delicious alternative that everyone will agree is superior to its egg-based cousin.
The Birth of Tom And Jerry
Not the cat-and-mouse duo, and not your guncles from Gaylord, “Tom and Jerry” is a warm, brandy-and-rum-based cocktail first created in the 1820s by British journalist and author Pierce Egan. It was devised as a marketing tool to promote a book and subsequent play he had written, “Tom and Jerry, or Life in London.” Later, the drink became a Christmastime staple in America—it was a favorite of President Warren Harding.
Twin Cities bartender Robb Jones learned the art of making a Tom and Jerry from cocktail consultant and bar owner Toby Maloney (The Violet Hour in Chicago) one snowy evening about 10 years ago.
“It’s really a tradition at New York cocktail bars. The rule [was to make it] whenever it would snow more than six inches; I think we should probably change it to like eight or 12 here,” Jones told me, owing to Minnesotans’ heartier nature. “It should be a special thing.”
The Cat’s Meow
Several factors set a Tom and Jerry apart from eggnog; none of which you’ll notice if your Tom and Jerry batter comes from one of the ubiquitous cartons sold in grocery stores around the Midwest.
First, a Tom and Jerry is served warm; and, while this isn’t a selling point for those who celebrate the holidays in Miami, it qualifies as a Christmas miracle in our climate. Second, it’s lighter and airier than eggnog—more of a seasoned warm milk than a sludgy custard. Third, it’s made with both rum and brandy (preferably cognac). Compared to the traditional rum-only eggnog, I find the butterscotch- and caramel-like flavors of a Tom and Jerry much more interesting and enjoyable.
Milk alternatives—like almond or oat milk—work just as well in this recipe as traditional milk, if not better. Jones actually prefers the earthy, nutty dimensions that other milks provide.
As one of the local stewards of the Tom and Jerry tradition, Robb Jones will be bringing the ritual to his new bar, Meteor. Along with Elliot Manthey (like Jones, recently of Spoon and Stable), he is targeting a December opening in the space that formerly housed Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den and Stand Up Frank’s.
“You can’t do a concept like this without a space that has history behind it, and this space has been a bar since 1901,” Jones explained.
While the cocktail renaissance in the Twin Cities has generated scores of menus filled with high-priced cocktails, it leads one to wonder: is anyone at work perfecting the $8 cocktail?
“I like going to dive bars but I also like getting a really great daiquiri or a really great old fashioned, and there’s no reason you can’t do that,” according to Jones. “Our concept is something that’s missing in this town. We’re creating the place that we want to go to, and we feel like our peers want to go to.”
That includes on a snowy winter night to get a Tom and Jerry.
Recipe for Tom and Jerry
By Robb Jones
Fancy Milk (Makes 6–8 drinks)
1 tablespoon whole cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1 quart almond milk
1 teaspoon salt
In a saucepan, lightly toast the cardamom and cloves until fragrant. Add the milk and salt. Stir briefly to combine, and warm everything on low heat for about five minutes. Keep warm for assembly.
Tom and Jerry Batter
6 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
1 ounce good rum (try Far North Spirits’ Ålander)
1/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/4 ounce vanilla extract
In a nonreactive bowl, whip the egg whites with cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, beat the yolks with sugar, rum, allspice dram, and vanilla. When the mixture is completely liquid, gently fold in the whites.
1 ounce good cognac (Pierre Ferrand 1840 is recommended)
1–2 tablespoons Tom and Jerry batter (to taste, and depending on your mug size)
Combine in a tempered mug. Top with warm Fancy Milk, and freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, or both.