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Doing eggnog one better

The Tom & Jerry is a cocktail that “tastes like Christmas”

Eggnog always seems like a good idea. Every year I make a big batch, and every year I want exactly one glass of it.

For a slightly lighter and far more warming alternative, I turn to the Tom & Jerry.

I was introduced to the Tom & Jerry by William Lardinois, who currently mans the bar at Maggie’s Farm distillery. A native of North Dakota, Lardinois remembers the drink appearing at nearly every family gathering. “When I was younger, my grandmother would make them for me using only hot water and skipping the alcohol, but my first ‘real’ Tom & Jerry was almost a coming-of-age moment,” he explains. “To me, it simply tastes like Christmas.”

A common but questionable story traces the drink’s origins to 1821, when it was used to promote a book about two chaps whose names you can probably guess. The concept is simple: an eggnog-like batter, hot water, winter spices and booze combine to make a festive dessert cocktail.

Though the batter can still be found at some Midwestern bakeries, it’s easy to make your own. For Lardinois’ recipe, separate six eggs, then beat the whites to a soft peak. Combine the yolks with a pound of powdered sugar and a half-pound of softened butter. Fold in the whites and add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and vanilla extract to taste. From there, the batter can be used immediately or frozen and stored for a few weeks. An optional half-teaspoon of cream of tartar will keep the sugar from settling out of the mix.

To make a Tom & Jerry, combine two ounces each of the batter, hot water and liquor in a mug. Lardinois suggests a combination of brandy and rum, and favors Maggie’s Farm spiced rum for its orange zestiness. Top with a little grated cinnamon and nutmeg, and you have a warm, indulgent drink strong enough to brave the bitterest Midwest (or Pittsburgh) winter.

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