I don’t know about you, but I don’t need another divisive topic at my table this year. And when it comes to Eggnog, love it or hate it—the opinions are strong about this holiday classic.
While Eggnog is the most popular recipe in the Nog beverage category, Eggnog is only one option. Regardless of how you feel about Eggnog, there is a better option that is universally enjoyed, the Tom & Jerry Cocktail.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with an old friend, Hadi Ktiri, currently the property beverage manager of the Four Seasons New Orleans. Hadi introduced me to the Tom & Jerry years ago.
As I was on a mini-rant about needing to dethrone Eggnog as a holiday favorite, I concluded that I need an explanation that would give even the die-hard Eggnog fan a reason to pause. So I asked Hadi his thoughts, and Hadi, a master of all things beverage and impressively diplomatic, responded.
“Don’t get me wrong, Eggnog is a fine drink. Even as an aged and bottled holiday cocktail it could be civil even,” Hadi said. “But it pales in comparison to a Tom & Jerry. Why would you replace Eggnog with a Tom & Jerry? For the same reason, you’d replace your Mustang GT from high school with an Aston Martin. Sure they both have wheels and get you to the same place, but when you get there the latter lets everyone know you’ve arrived.” Mission accomplished.
A brief history
Nogs are a subsection of the Flip cocktail category. Flips are defined by a base alcohol that is sweetened and includes the use of a whole egg or egg yolk, often garnished with nutmeg and trace their origins back to the late 1600s.
In the early days of the Flip drink category, the base spirit was sherry wine. The price of sugar and spices precluded most other than royalty from affording this drink, and even then they were reserved for celebrations.
Europe at this time still had limited availability to dairy, lacking consistent refrigeration and pasteurization technologies. The inclusion of the egg and sugar in a Flip, was designed to replicate the luscious mouthfeel of cream.
Nogs, differentiated by the inclusion of dairy, gained prominence in Europe around the time of the first industrial revolution. By the mid-1800s Nogs became popular with the American Colonists, as sugar, rum, eggs and dairy were staples in the colonies.
By the late 1800s Flips and Nogs were commonly consumed at bars throughout established American cities as cold beverages. Increasing the proportions of heavy cream and eggs were one way to add calories and decadence during the winter months, giving us the thick edition we are familiar with today. On a cold winter night, I can’t think of something I want less than a thick, cold beverage—strike one, Eggnog.
Advantages of the Tom & Jerry
The Tom & Jerry’s core ingredient of water, or more recently milk, is heated. Many will combine the hot base liquid with their chosen alcohol, then stir in the batter for a warm and comforting beverage.
Hadi comments, “At the French 75 Bar we made [Tom & Jerrys] a bit differently than most people. We kept the batter chilled in the fridge until just before service, and didn’t stir the drink. This created an incredible sip where the hot water and whiskey went into your mouth on the bottom, and cold sweet batter and nutmeg came through on top. The mix of temperatures was what I think made our preparation so wonderful.”
This brings us to another interesting advantage of the Tom & Jerry, health. Holiday foods are rich and calorie-dense. Many of us lament how much we consume, both in quantity and calories.
The Tom & Jerry is lighter in calories and density without giving up any celebratory richness. In the marathon of holiday parties, every calorie counts. Substituting water for milk is a traditional adjustment and adds a fun textural interplay.
If you prefer your Tom & Jerry with just a touch of added richness, you can use 2% milk, or skim. The Tom & Jerry understands the position you are in and is willing to adjust; Eggnog doesn’t care about you—strike two.
When it comes to storage, both beverages keep well. The Tom & Jerry batter has a small amount of alcohol in it, as a preservative, allowing the batter a week-long shelf life when refrigerated. Both are quickly accessible options at the end of the night, or for a party—so it’s a tie on this front.
When it comes to flexibility, the Tom & Jerry is a clear winner. Aside from the caloric adjustments available, the Tom and Jerry is easily modified into a nonalcoholic beverage.
The alcohol in the batter can be removed, and the alcohol in the body of the cocktail can be replaced with hot chocolate or coffee. Yes, you can take the alcohol out of Eggnog, but then you are drinking vanilla pudding. …strike three.
Inertia is not the only reason why eggnog has been highly favored and widely available. Eggnog has an emotional component.
Eggnog is a reminder of positive memories with family and friends collected through the years. There comes a point in all relationships when you sit for a moment in quiet reflection, deciding on the future. I want you can keep your memories, but it is time to upgrade the reminder.
Why should you make the switch when Eggnog has done the job for so long? Because you’re worth it.
Rory Brown is a lecturing Instructor, Culinary Arts – Restaurant Education & HVP at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
For more on the Tom & Jerry, check out these Holiday Cocktail Traditions From Mixology Masters courtesy of Cheers@Home.
Tom & Jerry
- 3 eggs separated
- ½ oz. Aged alcohol bourbon, rum, brandy
- 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
- ½ lb. Powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp. Apple pie spice
- ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
- 3 oz. Hot water
- 2 oz. Hot milk
- 1 oz. Aged rum
- 1 oz. Brandy
- For the batter: Whisk egg whites until stiff peak, then hold aside.
- Combine remaining aged alcohol, vanilla, powdered sugar, apple pie spice and nutmeg with a paddle attachment and mix until mix has increased in volume by 50%, about 4-5 minutes.
- Fold egg whites and egg yolk mixture until combined. (Can refrigerate batter for up to a week.)
- For the cocktail: combine hot water, hot milk, aged rum, brandy, 2 oz. of batter and nutmeg in a mug.
- Stir to combine.
- Garnish with grated nutmeg.