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Searching For Tom & Jerry

Finding the elusive, old-time holiday cocktail in Western New York

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who have had a Tom and Jerry and those who have not.

Those who have not will probably offer a quizzical look, trying to figure out what some obscure cocktail has to do with a cartoon cat and mouse. (The drink, in fact, is not named from the cartoon and dates back to an early-19th-century play.)

Those who have had one are likely to go on at length about the sweet frothy batter, created from a precise and separate beating of egg yolks and whites with sugar folded in, and the way it balances out the delicate dance of rum and brandy in a mug of hot water.

If there’s one thing to look forward in the bitterest chill of Buffalo’s winter, it’s sidling up to a bar and ordering one of these traditional holiday potables. The trick is actually finding one.

Let’s face it: The average corner beer-and-shot joint is not likely to to have an elegantly prepped punch bowl full of the fussy meringue batter essential to Tom and Jerrys. All the same, given the quality and volume of the area’s food and drink establishments, it’s surprising how tough it is to track one of these drinks down.

We have narrowed the search to three esteemed establishments that offer this winter essential for cocktail aficionados. You’ve got to get them while they’re hot, literally and figuratively: They are decidedly a seasonal affair, so once December’s gone, so are Tom and Jerrys.

Hot Booze

Hot Apple Rum

Nothing says cozy, smooth, and delicious like hot buttered rum. To add some seasonal spices to it try adding apple cider.

Mix 2 small slices of soft butter with 1 tsp brown sugar, 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon, 1⁄2 tsp nutmeg, and 1 pinch of salt in mug. Fill half of mug with warm apple cider (heat up with mulling spices if you want some extra flavor). Add 3 oz of dark rum and stir with a cinnamon stick. Garnish with apple slices.

Hot Scotch Chocolate

Mix 1 oz hot chocolate mix with 1 cup hot milk or cream and 1 oz butterscotch schnapps. Toss in a butterscotch hard candy to melt at the bottom for extra sweetness.

Dark Hot Cocoa

Put 2 cups milk into a saucepan along with pieces of dark chocolate (4 oz), cloves, 2 tsp honey, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Heat until melted. Add vanilla extract as needed (no more than 2 tsp) and 2 oz dark rum or orange vodka (for a chocolate orange flavor).

Cranberry Toddy Punch

A hot toddy was historically believed to help cure the cold and flu, although most doctors don’t recommend treating the common cold with alcoholic beverages (What do they know? One drink couldn’t hurt…) A hot toddy is a shot of scotch, brandy, or rum with boiling water, a spoonful of honey, a slice of lemon, and two cloves. This combination can be too medicinal for some, try adding some flavor with cranberry.

Mix 2 cups of cranberry juice (sweetened) with 1⁄2 cup orange juice, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp honey, and 3 tangerines (peeled and divided into slices). Combine 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon, 1⁄2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and 1 tsp whole cloves in a piece of cheesecloth, tie and add bag to pan. Simmer for 5-6 minutes. Discard bag. Pour into mugs. Add 4 oz of scotch, brandy, or rum. Garnish with orange slices.

Thin Mint Hot Chocolate

Mix 1 oz hot chocolate mix with 1 cup hot milk or cream, 2 oz peppermint schnapps, and 1 tsp sugar. Top with whipped cream, garnish with a candy cane and a thin mint cookie.

jill greenberg


789 Center Road, West Seneca

Even it wasn’t one of the few go-to spots for Tom & Jerrys. Schwabl’s would still be an essential cold-weather visit. The fabled West Seneca eatery is the perfect place for a cozy a lunch or dinner of a hearty beef on weck carved behind the bar, and service with a smile from Earline, undoubtedly one of the area’s nicest waitresses. Schwabl’s Tom and Jerry is served in a manner fitting Schwabl’s yesteryear feel. The drink is served in dainty, vintage-styled Anchor Hocking Peach Lustre carnival glass mugs emblazoned with green lettering and a pine branch. The batter sits proudly in a place of distinction at the bar in a matching bowl. Schwabl’s Tom & Jerry is perfectly balanced and just sweet enough. As much as we love those old time mugs, they are perhaps just a smidgen too small, which means one Tom & Jerry at Schwabl’s is just not enough. Plan on ordering two.


1104 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY

Cole’s has always been more than a stop on the Elmwood Avenue bar crawl. With its warm pub feel, extensive beer selection, and a great sandwiches, it’s an easy choice for a bite and drink whether you are in a rush or have hours to carouse. Ambling in through the snow on a late Monday afternoon, it looked to be touch-and-go for Tom & Jerry. There was no batter prepped and the bartender said we’d be out of luck until at least 6pm. After continued cajoling and a couple drafts, my drinking partner—one of Buffalo’s finest—put some of the detective’s bite on, and before we knew it, the bowl of fluffy batter emerged from Cole’s kitchen. It was worth the wait. The taste of nutmeg was prominent without being overpowering in Cole’s Tom & Jerry and it proved perfect respite from the cold, blustery weather just outside the window.

The Place

229 Lexington Avenue, Buffalo NY

Nestled just a block in from Elmwood on Lexington, The Place is a West Side oasis, the perfect city hideaway that boasts a comfortable and inviting bar, usually populated by a handful of regulars, along with a wide menu of homey entrees and sandwiches. The Tom & Jerry? It’s to die for. There’s a reason that The Place has become synonymous with local connoisseurs of the drink. Owner and head barkeep Kenny Moriarty seems proud that The Place’s Tom & Jerry has become a thing of local lore, and that pride is apparent in the drink itself. In a heaping 11-ounce holiday mug—almost triple the size of the usual—it is dosed with generous amounts of house rum and brandy and boasts the best batter we’ve had yet: the perfect balance of sweet, rich, and creamy. Moriarty eschews any notion of a “secret recipe” for his Tom & Jerry and batter and insists it’s “the easiest thing to make.” Stop in, have him fix one up you and then ask him how it’s done.

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