A handful of years back, in Boston on the day before Christmas Eve, I ended a day of shopping with a trip to No. 9 Park for a few drinks and a bite at the bar. There in front of the impressive array of bottles on display was a bowl much like the one above, with "Tom & Jerry" spelled out in fancy gold letters, along with matching mugs.
I watched in "What the hell..?" fascination as the bartender scooped some batter from the bowl, added something hot and something boozy, and wound up with a mug of steaming deliciousness that smelled for all the world like a cross between Christmas cookies and eggnog.
That was my first introduction to Tom & Jerry, a seasonal nog-like drink that used to be hugely popular, fell out of fashion in all but the Midwest (Wisconsin especially), and is now enjoying something of a renaissance.
Friends, Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and it's time to get on the freaking Tom & Jerry train.
Did I Mention We're Not Talking About the Cartoon?
You're not alone if you hear "Tom & Jerry" and immediately think of that (frankly kind of terrifying, no?) cartoon that launched a thousand "Itchy & Scratchy"s. But this drink has precisely zip to do with the cat and mouse who are out for each other's blood; instead, it was likely named after characters in a novel by Pierce Egan, a British writer in the 1800s.
What did they have to do with this concoction? That's a mystery to me, but it still makes more sense than the animals. (Check out this article for more background, including some educated guesses as to the drink's unflagging popularity in America's Dairyland.)
So What's in It?
There's a reason Tom & Jerry is generally limited to the holidays, and that reason is its rich, delicious ingredients list: eggs, sugar, cream or milk, brandy, and, what the heck, some rum for good measure. If you've ever made egg nog from scratch, you know it's well worth it, and you also know it's basically drinking liquid custard ice cream base. A little goes a long way.
But hey, it's the holidays, and there's much to be said for taking the time to make an admittedly labor-intensive and fantastically re-toxing drink like Tom & Jerry. Robert Simonson has a delicious version over at the NY Times, with some interesting extras like vanilla extract, a smidge of rum in the batter, and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters.
So go for it: no regrets, no retreat, no surrender. Whip up a batch, bring out the Tom & Jerry set, and gather some friends (and some cookies) for a sweet evening of cheer.
And should you find yourself without an amazing midcentury Tom & Jerry bowl and/or mugs? I've got you covered. Pop on over to the Holiday Barware section of my shop for several options, along with some other damn charming seasonal glasses.