My mother owns a Tom & Jerry punch bowl and the accompanying traditional mugs (as seen here). All of these are pulled out for making Tom & Jerrys at Christmas, and for the rest of the year they hibernate quietly in cardboard boxes alongside the other festive holiday decor.
In my (now quite fuzzy) childhood memories of the ’70s and early ’80s, the adults in my life were young and long-haired. They talked and laughed in the kitchen while sipping hot mugs of these eggnog-like cocktails, a Christmas-only, adult-only treat that I naturally assumed was universal and timeless.
But, surprise! As I learned just recently, the Tom & Jerry is not the universally loved Christmas cocktail I assumed it was. This variation of eggnog is actually rather unknown outside the upper midwestern states of the US these days.
I’d also assumed the Tom & Jerry was an old English recipe, but in fact, that’s only half true. This cocktail was created by a British journalist in the 1820s as a publicity stunt for one of his books, and it didn’t really catch on over there like it did in the states.
While on a quest for more information on the Tom & Jerry, you can read down through history along a winding path, passing by the various types of egg-milk cocktail concoctions, from 15th-century Possets (rich and desserty English drinks) and Caudles (more of a thick, sweet drink for recovery from illness or childbirth) to “Milk Punches,” Egg Flips and the better-known Eggnogs that are ubiquitous in the United States at Christmas.
The Coquito is a spiced coconut-milk variation in Puerto Rico. And here in Germany, the sweetened egg/dairy drink of choice is Dutch Advocaat (which was originally thickened with avocados!) or Eierlikör, which is less strongly associated with the holidays and is made particularly thick with eggs, sugar/honey and condensed or evaporated milk.
I grew up on Christmas eggnog, and I even blogged about my love of the wicked stuff at FreshDirect years ago, but now that I’m in my adult years with long hair and fuzzy memories, maybe I’ll revive the Tom & Jerry tradition.
Mom always makes a huge batch of batter. I think that’s proper. After all, the Tom & Jerry cocktail is a drink to have with friends in the kitchen, laughing and sipping.
But since 2020 is a year for cocktails over video calls, I’m making a much smaller batch of Tom & Jerry “batter,” what they call the pre-alcohol mixture of eggs, sugar and spices. For convenience, you can make your batter earlier in the day and keep it chilled for when you’re ready for a cocktail.
If you don’t want to make yours with milk and eggs, you can do a lactose-free, vegetarian or vegan variation by whipping two tablespoons of chickpea aquafaba in place of the egg white and using 1/4 cup soy or coconut yogurt for the egg yolk. Just heat your favorite dairy alternative in place of the hot milk.
Small-Batch Tom & Jerry Cocktails
- 1 farm-fresh egg, separated
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Pinch of ground allspice and/or clove
- 1 1/2 oz brandy
- 2 oz dark rum
- 12 oz milk, heated (or hot water)
- Boil a kettle with some hot water.
- Beat the egg white to soft peaks.
- Beat the egg yolk and sugar. Fold in the white. Add ground allspice and/or ground clove, if desired.
- Warm two mugs with the boiling water. Just swish it around and pour it out.
- Divide the blended Tom and Jerry batter, the brandy and rum between the mugs and then top off the mugs with either hot milk or hot water
- Add a sprinkle of nutmeg as a garnish and serve immediately.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!