Holiday cocktails: There’s eggnog, of course; there’s brandy milk punch, that New Orleans classic; and in the Midwest, you’ll find the Tom & Jerry. They’re all variations on a sweet, creamy, stick-to-your-ribs holiday warmer-upper. (Even when they’re served cold, these drinks pack enough of a wallop that you’ll be warm, all right.) But regarding the Tom & Jerry, banish any thoughts of a dumb cat and the mouse who constantly outwits him. This fluffy-yet-lethal cocktail, mostly popular in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, isn’t named for the Hanna-Barbera cartoon – though those Midwesterners may hear the sounds of a xylophone or a slide whistle as they boozily head to their cars in their slippery snowy driveways – nor to legendary 19th-century bartender Jerry Thomas. Apparently it’s a reference to an 1820s-era book called Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom (and you can file that under totally useless facts).
The Tom & Jerry is really just a gloss on eggnog, albeit one that requires more eggs, more liquor and more work (see Classic recipe). Look, that kind of calorie-loading can keep you alive up in the snowy North, but down here, it’s neither necessary nor pleasant to glug down a bunch of heavy cream and whole eggs. So, as I do every year, I’m Remixing a creamy holiday classic to a more climate-appropriate beverage.
In a reverse of the usual Remix, however, this takes a complicated drink and makes it dead simple. As I mused on creamy, sweet, but still light drinks that I could swap in for the Tom & Jerry’s time-consuming meringue-based batter, I was walking out to pick up lunch at Anh Hong. (Lucky us, Orlando Weekly is based squarely among the stellar Asian restaurants of Mills 50.) As I passed Chewy Boba, I had my answer: milk tea. Still creamy, still sweet, but lighter, cooler and lot more fun if you enjoy the chewy tapioca boba pearls.
Over the weekend, I picked up a few different flavors and experimented with different spirits to find the best match. I settled on coconut boba tea with a healthy shot of blackstrap rum, but almond with rye was also nice. A simple frothed milk topping, a dusting of sea salt – go with nutmeg instead if you’re incurably trad – and I had my new December go-to. Pick up a milk tea as your last stop after shopping, doctor it at home, and make gift-wrapping or holiday-card addressing infinitely more festive.
3 cups sugar
8 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pint heavy cream
1 quart whole milk
1 bottle golden rum
1 bottle brandy or cognac
First, make the batter: Separate a dozen eggs into two separate bowls. In one bowl, beat the whites to the stiff-peak stage. In another, larger bowl, beat the yolks. Add half of the sugar, continue beating until pale yellow, then add the vanilla extract, spices and remaining sugar. Gently fold the whipped whites into the yolk mixture. (Duh: This recipe contains raw eggs, so refrigerate the batter immediately and use it within 48 hours.) Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form and set aside.
To make one cocktail: Warm a rocks glass or a mug with a swirl of near-boiling water. Warm 4 ounces of milk and place in your glass or cup with 1 ounce each of rum and brandy. Add 2 ounces of batter and carefully whisk together. Top with whipped cream and dust sparingly with nutmeg.
12 ounces coconut bubble tea, with extra boba and no ice
2 ounces Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
1/2 cup sweetened vanilla almond milk
fine-grain sea salt
Divide the cup of milk tea evenly between two glasses, making sure no one gets cheated on boba. Add 1 ounce of blackstrap rum to each. Froth the almond milk with the steam attachment on an espresso maker. (Alternatively, use a handheld battery-operated frother, but be sure to warm the almond milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave first.) Divide the froth between the two glasses, then dust lightly with sea salt.