The Delicious Eggnog Alternative You've Probably Never Heard Of

Once upon a time, that time being the early 19th century, there was a delicious hot punch that was made with a batter. Yes, a batter, like the one used for pancakes, only this batter wasn't cooked on a griddle but stirred into boiling hot milk or water and spiked with a generous portion of booze. This drink went by the cartoonish name of Tom and Jerry, but its nomenclature predates the Warner Brothers characters by over a century. According to Atlas Obscura, the drink may have been created as a publicity stunt to promote a book called Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, the source for the subsequent hit play, Tom and Jerry, or Life in London.

Alas, the book, the play, and even the drink are long forgotten...or are they? The first two, decidedly so, but the drink itself remained popular up through the 1960s and, much like the Moscow Mule, even spawned its own signature drinkware – in case you ever find a punch bowl with matching glasses marked "Tom and Jerry" in ye olde Englishe script, now you know what it's for.

Where has this drink been all your life?

As it so happens, though, this drink that WUWM says was once considered lost never really went away even after all the punch bowls found their way to thrift stores and antique shops. Instead, the Tom and Jerry drink hid out in an obscure little corner of the globe called the Upper Midwest, a region so remote that Al Capone and John Dillinger were known to go to ground there when things got too hot in the windy city. (According to Travel Wisconsin, parts of Public Enemies were filmed onsite at several known gangster hideaways.)

Whether they partook in any Tom and Jerries while in their Badger State boltholes, history does not say, but a New York Times article notes that Wisconsin's particular affinity for the drink is no surprise – dairy products+booze+cold weather pretty much sums up the state, after all. Plus, as John Dye, owner of Milwaukee's iconic Bryant's Cocktail Lounge (home of the pink squirrel!) puts it, "I think trends just move a little slower here. [Wisconsonites] have their traditions here and they stick to them."

So what does a Tom and Jerry taste like, anyway?

On Milwaukee calls the Tom and Jerry "eggnog's sexy, spicy, warming cousin," and describes the Bryant's version (which may well be Milwaukee's best) as "tast[ing] a bit like boozy spiced custard." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also went with a custard analogy (custard is big in the Midwest), calling Tom and Jerries "warm custard in a glass," while Atlas Obscuraopted for "a delicious, warm revamp of the classic eggnog."

According to The Takeout, the Tom and Jerry is a drink that "tastes almost marshmallowy" due to the whipped egg whites and sugar it contains, but what they really like about it is the fact that it tends to be a lot lighter than the often overly-rich and too-heavy eggnog. Unlike eggnog, the batter-based Tom and Jerry is thinned down to the point where the drink comes out foamy, something that the New York Times called a "delicious frothy soup."

How to make a Tom and Jerry

If you should happen to live in Wisconsin or perhaps one of the nearby areas, you can make your Tom and Jerries the easy way – theJournal-Sentinel notes that there are two local manufacturers (Connolly's and Mrs. Bowen's) whose mix can be found in groceries and liquor stores throughout the state. There are also a number of bars and bakeries that make fresh batter in-house, plus, if you're in Milwaukee over the holidays, you can even go have a Tom and Jerry in Bryant's dedicated Tom & Jerry Room (a second-floor space that On Milwaukee says goes by the name Velvet Lounge the rest of the year).

If you won't be experiencing the joys of an Upper Midwestern Yuletide, then "yule" have to make your Tom and Jerries from scratch. Atlas Obscura provides an 1887 recipe where the batter is made from six eggs – the whites are beaten til they're stiff with cream of tartar, then the yolks are added along with cloves, cinnamon, allspice, sugar, and rum. The batter is then added to more rum or brandy, topped with hot water or milk, and sprinkled with nutmeg. If you want to go all-out with the dairy, you can always try a recipe from the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. In addition to sugar-spices-eggs-milk-booze, it calls for the addition of mascarpone cheese. As Wisconsin food writer Jeannette Hurt told WUWM, this ingredient "just adds an incredible richness." Plus, what would the holidays be without a little extra cheesiness?