You don't have to know who Tom and Jerry were in order to love their namesake.
We are not talking cartoons here, we're talking beverages of the season. Hot beverages, of course -- the kind Western New Yorkers seek when the snow starts to fall sideways.
Ho ho ho.
So forget the the cat and forget the mouse -- a Tom and Jerry drink is supposedly named for two characters in an 1821 novel, "Life in London: or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and his elegant friend. Corinthian Tom." Tom and Jerrys, as well as other steamy sip-ables, have become a classic holiday tradition.
One area restaurant has almost as long a history behind it as old Tom and Jerry themselves. That would be Schwabl's on Center Road in West Seneca, where the drinks are offered from Thanksgiving to March in old Carnival glass mugs that are so precious they have to be washed by hand.
The restaurant history goes back to 1837, and it's been at its present location since the 1940s. It's now owned by longtime employee Cheryl Staychock and her husband, Gene.
The traditions have stayed the same though. Former owner Ray Schwabl happened to be on hand to discuss the matter. He would not divulge the restaurant's secret recipe, which was created by his late father, Ray Schwabl Sr. (Though we did manage to find a Tom and Jerry recipe, which you'll see below.)
But he did say that a classic Tom and Jerry is made from a batter of beaten egg and sugar, a mixture of rum, brandy and hot water, sprinkled with nutmeg. "It's cold weather medicine," said Schwabl. He pointed out that the drink differs from eggnog because it contains no milk products. That makes it less filling, too.
"A lot of people make Tom and Jerrys," Schwabl said, "but they don't make good Tom and Jerrys."
The batter must be prepared so that it doesn't separate, he said. That means you have to beat the egg yolks thoroughly.
Another similar holiday stick-to-the ribs classic is Hot Buttered Rum, as served at East Aurora's Tony Rome's Globe Hotel. Owner Rocco Sorrentino says he glommed onto the family recipe of his dining room manager, Deb Plauman. Of course this recipe is top secret, too.
"Lots of sugar, lots of butter, lots of ice cream in the batter," Sorrentino hints. "It almost looks like beer batter." In a way the concoction is more of a dessert than a drink, he says, and differs from a Tom and Jerry because there is no bite to it.
Also, Hot Buttered Rum, confusingly enough, can be made without rum or any other alcohol. Just put the batter in the bottom of a hot mug, add the hot water, sprinkle it with nutmeg and -- cheers!
Which brings us to the fact that many hot holiday beverages don't have to contain booze. Take hot chocolate. It's staging a comeback if, indeed, it ever really went away.
But this is a grown-up drink; it is not made from cocoa powder, which contains no cocoa butter, it's made from chocolate granules. This is how the conquistadors brought chocolate to Europe -- they learned about it from the emperor Montezuma who used to drink the stuff in a golden goblet. And believe me, the old guy knew what was what. (The Europeans added the milk.)
Over in Choco Logo, a new chocolate shop in downtown Buffalo, they are selling the real drink like crazy. "It's made from extreme dark chocolate nibs dissolved in milk," reports manager Cherie Messore.
And speaking of trendy -- how about Chaider, as served in the city locations of Spot Coffee. Manager Josh Assad explains that Spot makes its own chai in the kitchen, steeping Chinese black tea with hand-ground ginger root, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper (very important), cinnamon, honey, orange and lemon zest. Usually chai is served with hot milk, but Spot serves it with hot cider.
You can try to duplicate that at home by buying chai tea bags and adding spices to taste.
The other beverages discussed above are equally easy. Here are a few recipes -- we make no claims that these are exactly the same as the drinks served in the restaurants.
But -- here's to your health. They come pleasantly close.
Tom and Jerry
- 1 egg, separated
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar
- Dash: cinnamon, allspice and ground cloves
- 1 ounce brandy
- 1 ounce rum
- Boiling water
Make the batter: Place the egg yolk in a bowl; beat whites until firm peaks begin to form. Beat the yolk until it is thin. Fold whites into the yolks and add sugar and spices.
Preheat the mug with hot water. Put one tablespoon of batter in each mug; combine rum and brandy, pour into the mug over the batter. Fill to the top with very hot water; stir very gently. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.
This makes enough for one serving. Multiply the recipe as you desire, figuring one egg per serving.
Hot Buttered Rum for a Crowd
- 1 quart vanilla ice cream
- 1 pound butter
- 1 pound brown sugar
- 1 pound confectioners' sugar
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Light rum
- Boiling water
- Cinnamon stick stirrers
Let ice cream and butter sit at room temperature until soft. Mix them together; stir in sugars, nutmeg and cinnamon and blend until smooth. Freeze. (Mixture will stay slushy.)
To serve each drink: spoon 3 tablespoons of this batter in a heated mug, add 1 jigger of rum and 6 ounces of boiling water. Stir very lightly. Garnish with cinnamon stick. The batter makes at least 30 servings.
Candy Bar Hot Chocolate
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 ounces milk chocolate candy bar, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup milk
Beat the yolks in a small bowl and set aside. Place chocolate in a 2-cup microwave safe glass measuring cup with a spout and add the milk. Place uncovered in the microwave and cook on high until chocolate is melted. (You may have to stir once or twice.)
Slowly pour the chocolate into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to measuring cup and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. You may need to rotate the measuring cup to heat evenly. Pour into heated mugs and serve. Makes 2 servings.
- 6 ounces best quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 1/4 cup water, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 3 cup hot milk
- Sugar to taste
- Whipped cream
In a double boiler, over low heat, combine chocolate and 1/4 -cup water until melted, stirring until smooth. Remove top of double boiler from heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of hot water. Divide among 4 mugs. Divide the hot milk among the mugs. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 4 servings.