In Defense of Tom & Jerry

Contributed by

It’s not easy to figure out exactly how many calories are in a little mug of Tom & Jerry.

Sure, the alcohol is a known quantity, with the couple ounces of cognac and dark rum clocking in at about 120 calories total. And the splash of hot whole milk (the only kind you want to even consider for a Tom & Jerry), is another 20. I don’t think cloves, nutmeg and allspice have calories, so you don’t have to worry about them.

Which leaves the batter.

When you take a dozen eggs, beat the whites to stiff peaks and the yolks with rum and a couple pounds of sugar, and then fold ‘em together, that comes to a little more than 4,000 calories. But fortunately, that bowl of batter will make three or four dozen Tom & Jerrys, which means that each drink contains a mere 250 calories or so. To put that into perspective, it’s equal to a pint of real beer. And people manage to choke those down okay.

The reason I’ve spent so much time dwelling on nutritional information is that the Tom & Jerry’s perceived caloric throw-weight is the basis of the only possible objection anyone could have to it as a holiday drink. This ancient beverage—it goes back to England in the 1820s—is otherwise so delicious, so warming and so conducive to holiday cheer that, if not for the fear its ingredients list engenders, the Tom & Jerry bowl would be broken out every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s by all Americans, rather than just the fearless souls in the upper Midwest.

I don’t know if that would bring our fractious country together, but I do know that you can have three Tom & Jerrys and still ingest fewer calories than are in a large McFlurry with M&Ms.

Tom & Jerry

Contributed by David Wondrich


  • Boiling water
  • 1 tbsp Tom & Jerry Batter*
  • 1 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz Dark rum
  • Whole milk, hot
  • Garnish: Nutmeg, clove and allspice
  • Glass: Coffee mug or Tom & Jerry cup

Rinse a small coffee mug (or, indeed, a white ceramic Tom & Jerry cup) with boiling water to warm it and discard the water. Add the batter, cognac and rum to the cup and fill with hot milk. Garnish with a mixture of 2 parts freshly grated nutmeg to 1 part each ground clove and ground allspice.

*Tom & Jerry Batter


  • 12 Eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp Cream of tartar
  • 2 lb Sugar
  • 2 oz Dark Jamaican-style rum
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract (optional)

In a nonreactive bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks.  In a separate bowl, beat the yolks with the sugar, rum and vanilla (if using). When the mixture is completely liquid, fold it into the whites.

David Wondrich is the author of Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl and Esquire magazine’s drinks correspondent. He is also a advisor.

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  • Dave posted 5 years ago

    This recipe is similar to the one I have been making every year for over 30 years. My recipe is more traditional as brandy is a Wisconsin staple and I mix with a dark rum, 1 oz. each, fill cup with hot water and a big table spoon of topping. Grate fresh nutmeg to top it off. Some differences I made are to use 6 eggs to a batch and a 2 batch minimum. Separate the whites and beat to peaks adding 1/2 tsp of cream of tarter and 1 cup (3/4 lbs) of powdered sugar, stir often. Beat yolks and slowly add 3 cups (3/4 lbs) of powdered sugar, I found a small pinch of cinnamon adds good flavor and a couple splashes of rum helps your hand mixer from bogging down. Fold whites into yolks, your mix should have a yellow hue. I cover with plastic and place in the freezer while I make my 2nd batch. Mix them both in my T & J bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. You will see little bubble holes and the cold will keep your Tom & Jerry from separating. When serving keep bowl in the fridge and heat up your cup of Tom & Jerry in the microwave for some 20 seconds for a light & creamy taste or try the frother on the expresso machine, hotter is better. It takes me 50 minutes to make 2 batches, just remember to clean everything before you start and between batches. I have been warned that any grease will keep your egg whites from peaking. Two last things I can add. Use the freshest eggs you can get, I have served hundreds w/o any problems from uncooked eggs just make sure you ask you guests if they have any allergies to eggs. Lastly I was able to hear Mr. Wondrich speak and talk with him about my passion for this libation and he did not disappoint, a true gentlemen.

  • Yadsia @ShopCookMake posted 6 years ago

    This drink looks truly decadent.

  • editor posted 6 years ago

    Leftover batter will last for two or three days in the fridge, but you shouldn't keep it any longer since it contains raw eggs. It's most definitely okay to cut the batter recipe in half.

  • v8 posted 6 years ago

    I think I am going to try this for the Holidays. Can I refrigerate the leftover batter or do I need to use it in one setting with friends?

  • Rachel posted 6 years ago

    This would be great to make with Sailor Jerry, given the name. I love using a spiced rum instead of just a dark rum, and the name would be great as a Tom & Sailor Jerry! I'll try it...

  • Joey posted 6 years ago

    I don't think it's a matter of calories in my case it's a matter of the batter being rather large, rarely do I have 10 to 20 people over for cocktails my max is about 5 or 6. We are stout drinkers but 48 servings is more than we can toast I'm afraid.

    Sounds delicious though, maybe I could make half the batter.

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