Sunday, December 15, 2019

tom & jerry

Two Sundays ago was our first significant snowfall of the year. It used to be a tradition that John Gertsen at No. 9 Park and later Drink would announce with the first snow that it was officially Tom & Jerry season, and batter would only be made on snowy evenings. Alas, John departed to the West Coast, so I carried on the tradition by announcing the beginning of this Winter tradition on Instagram and Facebook.

John has been immortalized in a few publications with regards to this tradition. In the 2012 edition of Food & Wine: Cocktails, he declared, "It may seem like a bit of a nuisance to make such a labor-intensive drink, but at the end of a long shift there's nothing better than a nice, hot Tom & Jerry." A 2016 article in Punch traced John's fascination back to Audrey Saunders and his being enraptured at the Japanese art deco bowl at Bemelman's in 2002. John's version was to acquire a cream-colored Homer Laughlin version with gold lettering for No. 9 Park to make this "liquid internal sweater" for the first snowfall of the year, and he expanded his collection with other sets after moving on to Drink.

Tom & Jerry is a 19th century style of Egg Nog first written about in 1827. According to David Wondrich in Imbibe, Jerry Thomas tried to take credit for the drink, but alas Thomas was born in 1830, and several other references appear before his claim of creating the drink in the 1847. The drink has always been linked with cold weather for its combination of hot water or milk, batter, and spirits delivers a lot of warmth and richness. Commercial sets of drinkware began appearing in the early 1870s, and vintage sets can be found in antique stores and on eBay.
Our introduction to the Tom & Jerry was at Drink in 2009 (despite having seen the bowl and mug set since 2007 at No. 9 Park). It was that night that we were exposed to how weird Tom & Jerrys could get -- instead of brandy, rum, or whiskey, we were served one with Fernet Branca! Since then, we have tinkered at home with strange spirits like Cynar and Angostura Bitters as well as cocktail combinations like the Negroni. This season, we tried out four using this recipe as a base:
2 Eggs (separated into whites and yolks)
3 oz Sugar
1/2 oz Aged Rum (Appleton Signature)
1/10 tsp Ground Clove
1/10 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/10 tsp Ground Allspice (~3 berries)

Beat yolks until watery and then add rum and spices. Beat egg whites separately (I shook in a Boston shaker containing a balled up Hawthorne spring) until whites are stiff. Fold yolk mixture into the whites. Thicken with sugar until the mix has the consistency of cake batter. This is enough batter for six 4 oz servings (see below) or three 8 oz servings depending on your mug size.

Pre-warm each cup with boiling water (and dump), and then add:
1 part Batter
1 part Spirit
2 part Hot Milk (hot water is okay, but less rich)
Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
After making this batch, my research pointed out that many people utilize equal parts batter, spirit, and hot milk. There is a trade off in temperature for ABV in this decision though.

The four combinations we made were:
(1) Baltimore T&J based off of the Baltimore Egg Nog. 1/2 oz Blandy's 5 Year Verdelho Madeira, 1/4 oz Camus VS Cognac, 1/4 oz Stolen Jamaican Overproof Aged Rum. Here, Jamaican rum funk worked well with delightful Madeira dried fruit notes.
(2) Ferrari & Jerry based off the Fernet-Campari shot. 1/2 oz Fernet Branca, 1/2 oz Campari. Minty, menthol, and orange for a great Christmas-y feel.
(3) Tropical & Jerry. 1/2 oz Coruba Rum, 1/4 oz Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao, 1/4 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil. Funky rum, caramel, banana, and chocolate flavors underneath a nutmeg and banana nose.
(4) Smoky & Jerry. 1/2 oz Cutty Sark Prohibition Scotch, 1/2 oz Sfumato. The Chinese rhubarb came through on the nose and its bitter herbal flavor worked well with the Scotch on the swallow.

Overall, the tropical one was the winner with the Fernet-Campari one garnering second place.

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