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Ask the bartender: Tom & Jerry gives a holiday party punch

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Growing up, I was a fat kid -- things haven't changed -- and I looked forward to egg nog every Christmas. I would drink tons of the stuff -- thinking, "It's milk, so it's good for you, right?" It wasn't until years later, during one of my thinner periods, that I actually looked at the nutritional information on the carton of egg nog....and holy shit! There's a lot of fat and cholesterol in there. In my warped imbiber's reality, I decided that adding booze cut down on all of that. So every Christmas, I'd get some cognac and add it to the egg nog. Healthier, right? No. But it tasted great, and made me feel even better.

Then, about ten years ago, I was at a friend's house for a holiday party, and he was serving a Tom & Jerry punch.

I had never heard of the drink, which was basically a hot nog with booze. He said that his family in the Midwest had been serving them all his life. The Tom & Jerry was rich, creamy, spicy and boozy. My inner fat kid jumped for joy!. And...my outer fat kid got really drunk. So I decided then that I would serve them every holiday season. And I did the research.

It turns out that in 1862, The Professor, Jerry Thomas, included the Tom & Jerry in his cocktail book (the first cocktail book ever): How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant's Companion. All of his life, he claimed that he'd created the drink. Unfortunately, that was a bit of a stretch. The Tom & Jerry was mentioned first in print in 1827, three years before The Professor was born. He did, however, make the beverage wildly popular, in a way making it his own.

There was a time when you could find Tom & Jerrys served in many establishments. It was a perfect eye-opener, an excellent breakfast drink -- it has eggs in it, right? But by the early 1900s, punch -- and the Tom & Jerry -- had gone out of fashion, relegated to a holiday beverage, served by families across the country.

So this holiday season, I decided to serve you a traditional festive punch: the Tom & Jerry (adapted from David Wondrich's take on Jerry Thomas's recipe).

Tom & Jerry (batter) 4 oz. brandy 12 eggs 1 cup raw sugar 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon .5 teaspoon ground allspice .5 teaspoon ground clove 1 gallon whole milk

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites to a froth, liquefy the yolks. Beat sugar, cinnamon, allspice, clove and brandy into the yolks. Fold in the whites. Heat the milk in a crockpot or double boiler and keep it to the side.

For each drink: 1 oz. cognac 1 oz. Jamaican rum 4 oz. very hot milk 2 tablespoons T&J Batter 1 whole nutmeg

In a ceramic mug, add the batter, cognac and rum. Stir in 4 oz. hot milk. Grate nutmeg over top and serve.

Have an excellent holiday! I'll be back next week with some tips on New Year's Eve.

Sean Kenyon knows how to pour out both drinks and advice. A third-generation bar man with 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can often find him behind the bar at Euclid Hall, or at his new bar, Williams & Graham --- and here most weeks, where he'll answer your questions. Post them in the comments section below.

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