December 23, 2011

Happy Hour: Tom + Jerry, The Original Winter Cocktail

by Fredo Ceraso

Tom & Jerry

Winter is coming. The leaves are long gone; stark bare branches and the increasing chill in the air are all that remain of autumn. The sun’s attempts to warm its subjects get undermined by the biting wind. Perfect time to duck into your favorite watering hole and defrost with a winter libation. Keeping with my philosophy of seasonal cocktails, a drink to get you through the frigid weather should be a hearty concoction that warms the body and spirit. Sure we could go with the yuletide staple, eggnog but it is served cold and a bit ubiquitous for my tastes. We need a warm beverage with a boozy punch. Look no further than the granddaddy of eggnog, a drink that used to be an American Christmas tradition called the Tom and Jerry.

The Tom & Jerry is a predecessor to modern eggnog. The origins of the cocktail can be traced back to the days of Walt Whitman. There are various theories of who created the Tom and Jerry, but Jerry “The Professor” Thomas made the drink a saloon staple from 1850-1880s. According cocktail authority David Wondrich’s book Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar (2008), Jerry Thomas claimed to created the drink for a patron in 1847 while working at a bar in New Haven, CT. Wondrich’s deep dive into Thomas’ life does uncover that this claim may have been part of the typical sporting man lore of the time. The Tom and Jerry and its derivates were popular in New England before Thomas’ birth in 1830. The Tom and Jerry is listed as recipe number 174 in Thomas’ quintessential cocktail manual, How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862).

Tom and Jerry
Original recipe by Jerry Thomas 

5 lbs of sugar
12 eggs
1/2 small glass of Jamaican rum [1 oz]
1½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice

Method: Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and the yolks (separately) until they are as thin as water, then mix together an add spice and rum, thicken with sugar until the mixture attains consistence of light batter.

To serve: Add one tablespoon of this mixture to a small bar glass, then add one wineglass (2 oz) of brandy, fill rest of glass with boiling water and grate nutmeg on top.

The original version of the drink needs all that sugar to thicken the mixture against the hot water. To Wondrich’s point, by using hot milk instead of water, the same consistency achieved and amount of sugar can be dialed back to two pounds. The versatility of the drink does not stop with water or milk. In How to Mix Drinks, Thomas is already tweaking the drink and recommends that the 2 oz of brandy can be broken up in 1 oz Cognac, 1/2 oz Jamaican, and 1/2 oz Santa Cruz rum. I believe we can go a step further to make the drink easier to execute in a single serving.

In my recipe below, I use Grand Marnier instead cognac, a full ounce of Smith & Cross over-proofed Jamaican pot stilled rum, substitute pimento or allspice dram for the crushed spices, and simple syrup for the sugar. The result is a spicy and rich boozy cocktail that can be a true corpse reviver in the winter months. The Grand Marnier brings the cognac element but also adds the right amount of orange peel and citrus to the drink. It also marries well with the bold molasses flavor of the Smith & Cross. Using pimento dram adds the mild spice flavors of clove, allspice, and cinnamon while saving on preparation time.

Tom and Jerry
1/2 simple syrup
1 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz Smith & Cross Jamaican Pot Still Rum
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth allspice dram
1 egg (optional: yolk and whites beaten separately)
4 oz hot milk
Ground nutmeg

Tools: Mixing tins, Tom and Jerry cup or Irish coffee mug, jigger, egg separator, grater, Hawthorne strainer

Method: Combine ingredients in mixing tins (except milk), dry shake for 5-10 seconds to emulsify the egg. Strain into a T&J cup or Irish coffee mug, add hot milk, and garnish with ground nutmeg.

*Photo by Vanessa Bahmani with FrenchChristmasWallPapers.net

**Got a cocktail question? Reach Fredo on twitter @loungerati, email me at fredo(at)loungerati(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

***Fredo Ceraso is the editor-at-large of the lounge lifestyle blog Loungerati.com. He is head cocktailian and a co-producer of The Salon parties. Fredo is a member of the USBG New York chapter and rolls drinks at many Lounge, Swing, Jazz Age, & Burlesque events in New York City.

One Comment

  • Yoko
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    The photo is so cozy! And it kind of reminds me of sears portraits which I love.

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