We enjoy shopping in antique stores and enjoy the search for special pieces. Periodically we will take notice of an item that we may not have paid any particular attention to before, but once we do then we seem to see the item everywhere we shop. Tom and Jerry punch bowls and cups are one of those items.
The drink has nothing to do with the cartoon characters some of us grew up watching. It is doubtful the drink was created by bartender Jerry Thomas who wrote “How to Mix Drinks” in 1862 despite several articles and online accounts crediting him with the drink’s origins. Although he made them often and the drink became associated with him, references to Tom and Jerry predate Jerry Thomas’s book by four decades.
The phrase dates from 1821 when “Life in London; Or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom” was released, written by Pierce Egan and dedicated to George IV. It seems to have been made and served since the release of the book. In fact, some claim Egan introduced the drink, which is a form of eggnog, and called it a Tom and Jerry to draw attention to his book and subsequent play with characters by the same name. The play was titled “Tom and Jerry, Or Life in London” and it also premiered in 1821.
Damon Runyon (1880-1946) mentioned the drink in “Dancing Dan’s Christmas” published in 1932. “This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that was once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas…But anybody will tell you that there is nothing that brings out the true holiday spirit like hot Tom and Jerry, and I hear that since Tom and Jerry goes out of style in the United States, the holiday spirit is never quite the same.”
Various slang dictionaries define “Tom-and-Jerry Days” as the period of the Regency (1810-20) when George IV was king, and a Tom and Jerry shop was a low drinking establishment. – Henley, William Ernest. Slang and its Analogues Past and Present. 1904.
One hasn’t far to look to find references indicating that the term was not something well-bred people aspired to. The great increase of crime was attributed to a large degree to the beer-shops which were, “significantly termed by the lower classes ‘Tom and Jerry shops’”. Nineteenth century books reference Tom and Jerry Clubs, Tom and Jerry amusements, Tom and Jerry sprees, and there’s the ultimate phrase, “spend their evenings in riotous debauchery, drinking, gambling, and raising Tom and Jerry”. – Bather, Edward. “Thoughts on the Demand for Separation of Church and State”. 1834. London. & Dow, Jr. “Short Patent Sermons”. 1841. NY.
In later decades a Tom and Jerry became associated with Christmas and cold weather, defined by some as the period extending from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Jerry Thomas’s version of Tom and Jerry instructed the maker to put into a punchbowl
“5 lbs. sugar; 12 eggs; ½ small glass of Jamaica rum; 1 ½ teaspoonful of ground cinnamon; ½ same of cloves; ½ same of allspice.
Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and the yolks until they are as thin as water, then mix together and add the spice and rum, thicken with sugar until the mixture attains the consistence of a light batter.
To deal out Tom and Jerry to customers:
Take a small bar glass, and to one table-spoonful of the above mixture, add one wine-glass of brandy, and fill the glass with boiling water, grate a little nutmeg on top.
Adepts at the bar, in serving Tom and Jerry, sometimes adopt a mixture of ½ brandy, ¼ Jamaica rum, and ¼ Santa Cruz rum, instead of brandy plain. This compound is usually mixed and kept in a bottle, and a wine-glassful is used to each tumbler of Tom and Jerry. N.B.—A teaspoonful of cream of tartar, or about as much carbonate of soda as you can get on a dime, will prevent the sugar from settling to the bottom of the mixture. This drink is sometimes called Copenhagen, and sometimes ‘Jerry Thomas’”. [- from Jerry Thomas’s book on mixed drinks, 1862]
TOM AND JERRY MIXTURE. Take the whites of any quantity of eggs and beat to a stiff froth. Add one heaping tablespoonful of fine sugar for each egg. Beat the yolks of the eggs separately; mix together, adding a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, and beat to a stiff batter. Stir frequently so as to prevent the sugar from settling in the bottom of Tom and Jerry bowl.
HOW TO SERVE TOM AND JERRY. Put two tablespoonfuls of the above mixture into a Tom and Jerry mug; add half a jigger brandy and half a jigger rum, fill with boiling hot water or hot milk; mix well with a spoon, grate nutmeg on top and serve.
TOM AND JERRY COLD. Serve same as above, using cold water or milk in place of hot. – Kappeler, George J. Modern American Drinks. 1900. Akron, Ohio.
A frozen Tom & Jerry was promoted by the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1920:
2 c. milk, 3/4 c. sugar, yolks 6 eggs, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 c. cream, 2 Tablespoons rum, 1 Tablespoon brandy
Make a custard of the first 4 ingredients; strain, cook, add cream, and freeze to a mush. Add rum and brandy and finish the freezing. [Note this recipe did not make use of the egg whites.]
Option: Some recipes said to add a stick of butter and/or mix with hot milk instead of hot water.