Every year I like to chef-up a batch of Tom & Jerry cocktails. The Tom & Jerry is a classic Thanksgiving drink and I must admit, I have to look up the recipe every year. Normally this is what happened when I look up a Tom & Jerry recipe.
If you actually read the recipe above, you may see what the problem is and thus why this drink isn’t popular: About.com thinks that scrambled eggs & water is ok if you add brandy. It is not.
The Tom & Jerry isn’t a cocktail, it’s a baking project. And you need to read the recipe like a baker. Even a quality recipe, like the one by Charles Joy on Chow, is tough for a kitchen novice. I come from the non-measuring school of bar tending and was never trained as a baker, so I got out my crayons and pencils to illustrate it for us mere mortals.
Start with a recipe, I like Wondrich’s (but I add vanilla and butter*):
- 12 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 bottle brandy
- 1 bottle dark rum
- ¼ lb butter
- Pinch of ground allspice
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Vanilla extract
Then I annotate the ingredients:
- 12 eggs – how about free range
- 1 cup sugar – make it super fine baker’s sugar, not confectioners sugar or powered sugar, that is different
- 1 bottle brandy – I’d cheap out and get something sweet here, a vs or a vsop under $30
- 1 bottle dark rum – I’d stick with the good stuff here, well aged and over $30
- ¼ lb butter – leave it out at room temp, you rarely need cold butter in baking
- Pinch of ground allspice – buy new spices, yours are old
- Pinch of ground cinnamon – grind your own, the flavors will pop, splurge on true cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves – see above
- Milk – all in, full fat, BUT reserve until the end
- Nutmeg – whole nutmeg berries microplaned over the drink
- Vanilla extract – real costs like $2 more than fake and it’s not made in a factory that also makes chicken nuggets taste “fresh”
The next thing you need to do is gather your tools. I use a whisk because my time has no value, but unless you are a pro fluffer I would recommend a mixer. Otherwise, you’ll need tools:
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- 2 mixing bowls
- 2 small bowls
You need to set everything out. The whisky is to sip while working. After you’ve gathered everything, here are the instructions:
Start by grabbing your ¼ lb of butter also known as 1 stick of butter. Put it in a mixing bowl and go watch TV for 2 hours while it warms up to room temp.
Now using your 2 small bowls, begin by separating egg yolks from whites or by separating yolks from albumens if you’re fancy. The ideal way to do this is to crack each egg on, or if you are bad at it, in a small bowl. Use this 1 small bowl to crack each egg and then pour your albumens** into a mixing bowl and the yolks into the other small bowl. Keep the 1 bowl clear after you separate each egg, that way, if you mess up you won’t ruin the whole batch.
You should now have 3 bowls, 1 of whites, 1 of yolks and 1 of butter. At this point I like to mash up the butter a bit and add the yolks and sugar to the butter. It’s ok and expected for the yolk, butter & sugar mix to be thick, but it can’t be chunky. Here is another time when it’s good to have and electric mixer or burr mixer. At this point, I don’t add any spices.
You’ll read the phrase “beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.” I didn’t learn what this meant until I actually got it right. It should look like this:
On the way to this you’ll fluff the whites to a point where they’ll double in size and turn white, you aren’t done. Once they triple in size, and stick to the whisk when removed, and look like this drawing, then you are done.
You can now fold the whites into the yolks. Which means they need to be completely amalgamated until the batter is thick and no albumen can be seen. I’ve seen this be called “cake batter thick,” and if you don’t know what that means, I’m sorry that you had a shitty childhood.
Now is when I add the cinnamon, allspice and vanilla. The correct amount to use is “less” because the spices will continue to infuse into the batter and the flavors of these spices are the flavors of the booze you’ll use. You can always add more to taste. I’d start with 1 tsp of each spice and taste as you go.
When choosing booze, I like 1 part aged dark rum*** to 1 part brandy. Mixing these spirits add different complexities. Pick a rum that has a huge flavor. Many are cheap and even low quality, but I’d go better, bigger and maybe something with an age statement. Cognac is important but I prefer a lame brandy of indeterminate origin, the bad stuff is overly sweet and artless, and it’s the surprisingly appropriate backbone of a drink like this.
For the booze portion, I don’t mix it into the batter. Because, why bother? The Tom & Jerry tastes great without the booze, I keep it separate to include everyone. However, when I do add booze, I make the Tom & Jerry with a ratio of about:
Tom & Jerry Assembly Instructions
- 2oz booze mix
- 2oz batter
- 4oz hot water
Pour hot-water-and-milk-blend into a mug and top with batter and booze. Give a little stir and the drink will naturally froth up.
No one makes a Tom & Jerry to order, you make batches for groups of friends or worst case scenario, customers. To do this pre-batching is essential. I make a carafe of booze mix, a Tom & Jerry mixing bowl (found at your local Goodwill) and an electric tea kettle to have hot water to order. Mix this hot water with milk to order. If you are a restaurant or have access to a church basement, you can premix hot water into a coffee carafe. You could also buy one.
Lastly use a microplane fresh nutmeg atop the completed drink. I know, microplane has never paid me either, but they have no competition in their market. I own their extra special “hard herb” plane (not pictured here) and about 3 others. Just buy one. The Tom & Jerry isn’t much for aromatics, so this step is very important.
These 72 detailed steps will make a perfect, easy (to serve) cocktail for after Thanksgiving that will put you to sleep by 7pm.
And if you need help falling asleep early, you can read all about the history of this fine drink in a post I wrote during the year of the cocktail advent calendar.
*my version skirts the line of “hot buttered rum” but I’d remind you that authentic doesn’t always mean “best”
***Dark is a hue, aged means it actually had time in wood