Ahh, Eggnog, a boon to the holidays and, if mixed properly, enough liquid
merriment to make any man feel like Old Saint Nick. We all love the potent
concoction, and all partake, perhaps more than liberally, at the holidays.
But in these modern times, few people realize that our beloved Eggnog
is little more than a sad temperance de-evolution of a much stronger,
much creamier, much earlier drink: The Tom and Jerry.
Also known, in some early drink references, as The Thomas and Jeremiah,
The Tom and Jerry is mixed with whiskey, brandy, rum, sugar, medium cream,
nutmeg and allspice. Start by mixing the egg yolk, 1/2 jigger of Jamaica
rum, 1 dash allspice, 1 teaspoon powdered (not confectioners') sugar.
Then add egg white and 1/4 ounce cognac or whiskey. Mix thoroughly. Pour
this into a pre-warmed Tom and Jerry mug or goblet, adding 1/2 to one
ounce of whiskey if desired. Fill the remainder of the mug with medium
cream or water to taste. Stir, and top with fresh ground nutmeg. This
is enough for one person, but generally Eggnogs and Tom and Jerrys are
served for large groups, so simply increase the proportions relative to
the size of your bowl.
Tom and Jerry dates back to the days of legendary barman Jerry Thomas.
A lordly man of kingly disposition, Thomas is rightly the grandfather
of the golden age of American bartending. Drinks such as the Martini,
the Blue Blazer and the Tom and Jerrythe first 'Nog--are credited
to him. Thomas' study of all things cocktail, The Bon Vivant's Companion,
is occasionally available at used book stores.
however, this concoction's name does not reference our revered backbar
predecessor. Nor does the Tom and Jerry bear any relationship whatsoever
to that raucous cat and mouse team of the same name. In actuality, the
moniker is derived from the humorous 19th century characters in Pierce
Egan's Life in London, Jerry Hawthorn and Corinthian Tom.
service for the Tom and Jerry, or really, for any Eggnog, takes
the form of a large and heavy ceramic bowl accompanied by eight to twelve
matching ceramic cups that resemble miniature coffee mugs. In elder times
these were manufactured of a thick earthenware, generally glazed off-white
and emblazoned with the gilded signifier "Tom and Jerry." Much
like a good Griswold skillet, the unique qualities of the ceramic absorb
a little of the essence of its contents. Over the years, old Tom and Jerry
sets became family heirlooms, capturing in their materials the essences
of innumerable joyous Yuletide gatherings. Today, these old sets, imbued
permanently with the inescapable air of nutmeg, brandy, rum and cream,
have become treasured collectibles. Later sets manufactured of glass and
lesser ceramics, although perfectly functional, do not impart the aged
essence of their elder counterparts. Tom and Jerry sets can occasionally
be found at antique shops, flea markets and auctions.
Christmas--or Hanukkah, or what have youraise your cups with us
in praise of the holiday spirit, the Tom and Jerry, and its creator, Professor
Jerry Thomas. In doing so, may you witness the revival of an old tradition,
one that will surely soften the edge on your in-laws, melt the icy disposition
of modern day e-Scrooges, and lighten the spirits of another merry season!