Cocktail of the Week: Warming Up to Tom and Jerry

The Tom and Jerry, a hot variation on the holiday eggnog staple
The Tom and Jerry, a hot variation on the holiday eggnog staple

Washingtonians rang in 2012 during one the warmest New Year’s Eves in memory, but the days that followed turned bitterly cold giving locals their first real taste of winter this season. Last week’s spell of gusty winds and snow flurries set the stage for me to whip up a winter cocktail to soothe my January chills.

Fortunately, I was armed with a collection of recipes that I sampled last month during the Musuem of the American Cocktail’s annual holiday party The event featured seasonal offerings from some of Washington’s most innovative cocktail lounges, including Bourbon Steak, the Columbia Room, PS-7 and Room 11. Jon Harris of the Gibson presented a classic tipple, the Tom and Jerry using Jerry Thomas’s original recipe from the 1850s.

The Tom and Jerry is a hot variation of the holiday staple eggnog, spiked with cognac and rum. But while most people forget about eggnog after December, the Tom and Jerry makes a delightful warmer throughout the cold and snowy months.

The biggest difference between the two is that the Tom and Jerry is served warm; secondly, the Tom and Jerry has a whipped, silky texture that doesn’t weigh you down like thick eggnog.

According to Harris, the Tom and Jerry first appeared in the 1820s. It was created by London sportswriter Pierce Eagan. Its name is not derived from the famous cartoon cat and mouse duo but from a book Eagan wrote called “Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom.” The book described the exploits of two gentlemen as they ran rampant through London having a good time, drinking and carousing. Eagan fashioned the drink as a publicity stunt to promote his work. He would hand out cocktails in shops in hopes of increasing sales.

The popularity of the Tom and Jerry exploded in the 1860s after it was featured in “How to Mix Drinks,” “Professor” Jerry Thomas’s pioneering collection of cocktail recipes. It remained fashionable through the 1940s, and ’50s, when people held Tom and Jerry parties and served their drinks in specially made sets of gold-trimmed ceramic mugs with “Tom and Jerry” emblazoned on the front. These collectibles can still be found on eBay and antique stores. The drink nearly disappeared in 1960s during the era of convenience foods, when pre-made mixes replaced fruit juice and fresh ingredients in cocktails.

Making a Tom and Jerry from scratch is a time-consuming process. It involves a dozen of eggs, separated, with the whites whipped into stiff peaks and yolks beaten with sugar and spices. These two components are then folded together to form a batter, which can be made ahead and stored. Harris recommends keeping it overnight to allow the spices to meld.

When ready to serve, prepare a cup by pouring a shot each of cognac and rum, then adding a dollop or two of batter. Heat the cocktail by adding warm milk and stirring.

A properly made Tom and Jerry makes a soothing treat that will kill the chill in your fingers and toes. It starts off with a potent kick from the rum and cognac but goes down smoothly with a soft, fluffy meringue-like finish. It’s just the ticket until the milder days of spring return.

The Tom and Jerry
(based on Jerry Thomas’s recipe)

12 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 bottle Remy Martin cognac
Pinch each of ground allspice, ground cinnamon, clove and nutmeg
1 bottle Appleton’s Reserve Extra 12-Year-Old Rum
Milk

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until they form a stiff froth. Beat the yolks and sugar and spices, separately until thin. Gradually add 4 ounces cognac. Fold the whites into the yolks.

When ready to serve, give it another stir and then put 1 tablespoon of this batter in a small mug or tumbler. Add 1-ounce cognac and rum, stirring constantly to avoid curdling. Fill to the top with hot milk (or a 50/50 mixture of water and milk) and stir until foamy. Garnish with nutmeg on top.

Ingredients to make the Tom and Jerry may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, 3429 M Street, N.W., in Georgetown. For more winter drink recipes, visit CocktailMuseum.Wordpress.Com.

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Sat, 20 Sep 2014 14:01:56 -0400

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