Nog and Smile

The warm, boozy Tom and Ginger is Christmas in a glass
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Tom & Jerry Cocktail
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table

The Tom and Jerry, a warm 19th-century tipple made of rum, cognac, milk, eggs, sugar and spices may sound more like a pastry than your next nightcap. Jerry Thomas, who published the first bartender's manual in 1862, claimed authorship of his namesake nog, but it's believed to be the creation of British journalist Pierce Egan, who ladled cups of it to publicize a book of the same title around 1820.

In Wisconsin, where I learned to tend bar two decades ago, I prepared them all winter long in tempered toddy glasses with cheap brandy, hot water and a commercial batter found in most grocery stores around the holidays in this part of the country. It wasn't until years later that I learned how to serve them from scratch as a bartender working under Audrey Saunders at the Pegu Club, where you can still order one on a brisk night during the holiday season in Manhattan. Look for her vintage Tom and Jerry crock on the back bar to signal the drink's availability.

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Determined to preserve the tradition, I worked with PDT head bartender Jeff Bell on our own version, which we call the Tom and Ginger, to serve at the bar. Following in Audrey's footsteps, Jeff prepares a batter from scratch, which we bottle and chill between service. Jeff's variation adds ginger to Audrey's blend of baking spices and bitters along with blackstrap rum, which imparts a caramelized quality that makes this Tom and Jerry taste like his mother's famous gingersnap cookies. With a brother named Tom to call his own, I'd say he's captured the Bell family Christmas celebration in a glass.

Tom and Ginger Cocktail

Recipe adapted from Jeff Bell, PDT, New York, NY

Yield: 1 cocktail plus 3 cups batter

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


For the Tom and Ginger Batter:

3 large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground clove

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 dash Angostura bitters

½ ounce vanilla extract

½ ounce gold rum

For the Tom and Ginger Cocktail:

1 ounce cognac (preferably Pierre Ferrand Ambre

½ ounce dark rum (preferably Cruzan Black Strap Rum

½ ounce gold rum (preferably Appleton Estate rum) (link to)

⅓ ounce demerara syrup (1 part demerara sugar to 1 part water, boiled until the sugar dissolves)

1 tablespoon Tom and Ginger batter

1 dash Angostura bitters

3 ounces hot whole milk

Thinly sliced ginger, for garnish


1. Make the Tom and Ginger batter: Using a large whisk, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, gradually adding the sugar. Whisk in the spices, Angostura bitters, vanilla extract and rum.

3. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the egg whites. Cover and chill.

4. Make the Tom and Ginger cocktail: In a mug, combine the cognac, both rums, demerara syrup, Tom and Ginger batter and bitters. Stir in the hot milk, garnish with ginger and serve.

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