A drink that eats like a meal, the Tom & Jerry is a hefty froth—the king of eggnogs. Its name has nothing to do with the forerunners of Itchy and Scratchy, nor with Jerry Thomas, the seminal bartender who first committed its recipe to print in How to Mix Drinks (1862). Rather, it owes to the British writer Pierce Egan, who invented the drink to promote his novel Life in London, published in 1821 under the delicious subtitle The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, Accompanied by Bob Logic, The Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis.
Egan presented his readers with a 400-page debauch, and The Cambridge History of English and American Literature ventures that his book "with its leer and wink of knowing vice, its sickly affectation of warning young men from the haunts and pursuits that it lusciously describes, would have disgusted even Sterne." Life in London brought the phrase "three sheets to the wind" from the mouths of the sailors to the eyes of pre-Victorian ladies. We suggest accounting for the novel’s weltanschauung when preparing to drink beside the tannenbaum. This recipe serves two reasonably well-adjusted adults.
The Tom & Jerry
Yield: 2 servings
Time: 10 to 20 minutes
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar, ideally superfine
1½ ounces brandy
2 ounces dark rum
12 ounces milk?
1. Start a kettle boiling.
2. Separate the egg.
3. Reward yourself for separating the egg by sipping just a little rum.
4. Beat the egg white. In the best of all possible worlds, you would keep beating until soft peaks formed. In this one, it will suffice to keep beating until your arm is tired, if you're using a simple whisk, as opposed to an electric hand mixer with traces of cookie-dough batter and saliva still clinging to it. If you really do whisk the white until soft peaks form—be honest!—you have earned another little sip of rum.
5. The kettle is whistling. Pour the hot water into two mugs to warm them up. If you own a set of dedicated Tom & Jerry mugs, then use them. Of course, if you own a proper set of Tom & Jerry mugs, then you've only read this far so that you can be more thorough in your contumely when derogating this recipe in the comments below and insisting upon your vastly superior family recipe.
6. Beat the egg yolk with the sugar. Fold in the white. Pinch a bit of allspice or ground clove in there if that is how you roll.
7. A little more rum never killed anybody.
8. Pour the water out of the mugs and into the Christmas-tree stand. Divide the batter, the brandy, and whatever is left of the rum between the mugs. Stir.
9. Here you are at a crossroads. You could top each of the mugs with hot water and have yourself a treat that splits the difference between a candied egg drop soup and a standard hot toddy. Or you could take the alternate route, sophisticated and soporific, of bringing 12 ounces of milk to a simmer and using that. If you use the organic milk that you pay through the nose to buy for your children, this Tom & Jerry will be sinfully filling because the milk is whole fat, because you have been led to believe that that is what is best for the children's so-called brains.
10. Top with nutmeg. In the absence of a whole nutmeg, substitute ground nutmeg from a jar or else a dash of fine wood chips, same diff, happy Xmas.
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