Hot buttered rum, mulled cider, and eggnog may have roles to play in the holiday season, but in the Midwest there is a certain bias towards the Tom and Jerry. The sweet foam across your lip and the warm blend of rum and brandy provide a sense of comfort and hope in a land where below-zero temperatures reach double digits and the world goes on. For most, making a Tom and Jerry first requires making the batter, but in the Duluth / Superior area the drink is so popular you can purchase a locally made Tom and Jerry batter in most grocery stores. Connolly’s Tom and Jerry batter has been made in Superior, WI since 1949. (For more on Tom and Jerrys, also see our story “The Best Tom and Jerry, Updated.”)
Connolly’s recommends filling a cup ⅓ full of batter with ½ jigger of brandy and ½ jigger of rum, then filling the rest of the cup with piping hot water or milk. It is not stirred, which causes the batter to rise to the top, creating a layer of froth. Any dark rum will do, but Myers’s Dark Rum adds an extra richness to the beverage. Water works better in the drink because of the difference in texture between the foamy top and liquid below. Using milk usually makes for a very thick beverage that is too similar to the mouthfeel of the batter.
The ease and convenience of Connolly’s Tom and Jerry Batter is an ideal last-minute party idea, but if you have tasted a fresh batch of homemade Tom and Jerry Batter, it doesn’t compare. Connolly’s comes in a 1-lb plastic container that is shelf stable for 14 days after opening or three months frozen. Artificial coloring and corn syrup add to the longevity of the product, but it lacks the airy texture that makes a Tom and Jerry fun to drink.
Many Tom and Jerry recipes have been created over time, but in the 19th century Thomas Jeremiah was credited with the creation of the drink in his obituary. His recipe:
5 lb sugar
½ small glass of Jamaica Rum
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground allspice
“Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and the yolks until they are thin as water, then mix together and add the spice and rum; thicken with sugar until the mixture attains the consistency of a light batter. A teaspoon of cream of tartar, or about as much carbonate of soda as you can get on a dime, will prevent the sugar from settling to the bottom of the mixture.”
As the drink has evolved, less sugar has been used and brandy has been added. A recipe that captures the essence of the Tom and Jerry while combining modern cocktail ideas was created by Audrey Saunders, co-owner and mixologist of the Pegu Club in New York. Her recipe called the Tom and Jerry and Audrey is:
12 fresh eggs (yolks and whites separated)
2 lb white sugar
6 tbsp fine Madagascar vanilla extract
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
6 oz boiling milk
½ tsp ground all spice
2 oz Bacardi 8 Anejo Rum
1 oz Courvoisier VS Cognac
4 dashes Angostura bitters
Whether your Tom and Jerry batter is purchased from the store or is a variation of the original recipe, it is important to experiment. Sugar, eggs, and rum are only the beginning of a holiday beverage that has been embraced more by the Midwest than anywhere else.