Buffalo’s Christmas cocktail: The Tom & Jerry


(WIVB) – Cold weather in Buffalo means Tom and Jerry season.

The hot cocktail dates back to the 1800s and is a holiday favorite for many Western New Yorkers.

With a base of hot water, rum and brandy and an egg batter topping sprinkled with nutmeg, Tom & Jerrys are sometimes compared to eggnog, although they’re not as thick and served warm instead of cold.

The drink is usually attributed to Pierce Egan, a 19th century British journalist who is said to have created the drink to publicize his book Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom (1821) and stage play Tom and Jerry, or Life in London (also 1821).

The drink became “somewhat of a phenomenon” at that point, The Place owner Jay McCarthy said.

“It probably came across the Erie Canal and through Buffalo, into the Midwest,” McCarthy added.

Outside of Buffalo, the Midwest is one of the only regions of America where you can regularly find the cocktail during the Christmas season.

Tom & Jerrys have been a seasonal staple at The Place ( 229 Lexington Ave.)since at least the 1940s, McCarthy said.

“It’s a warm, great belly drink,” he said. “We sell many thousands of these drinks to many happy patrons year after year.”

The drink is also a tradition at Schwabl’s in West Seneca, where front-of-house manager Derrick Wojcik says he believes it’s been served seasonally since the restaurant moved to its current location on Center Street in 1942.

“People come in and stand at the bar or grab a table and have to or three,” Wojcik said.

There are also plenty of customers who have never heard of the drink.

“They’ll see us making them and be like “What is going on?” Wojcik laughed.

Though it’s traditionally a Christmas drink, both places serve Tom & Jerrys beyond the holidays.

The Place serves them until demand tapers off, usually in late January and sometimes into February, McCarthy said.

You can grab one at Schwabl’s from Columbus Day Weekend to St. Patrick’s Day.

“Out of demand, we’ve kept moving it further and further out,” Wojcik said.

You can get your Tom & Jerry fix at several other locations in the Western New York area. Check out this list that Visit Buffalo Niagara compiled to find one near you!


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