In Defense of Tom & Jerry

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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

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

PREPARATION:
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

INGREDIENTS:

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

PREPARATION:
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 Liquor.com advisor.

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