A Warm, Boozy
The sipping of Tom and Jerrys, a warm, rum-and-brandy infused egg nog-like drink, is Buffalo’s welcome to holiday traditions. The tradition’s old-time roots go back to its invention in England in the mid-1800s, a 1938 Damon Runyon short story about a Christmas prank involving copious amounts of the drink. Buffalo taverns, like The Place and Schwabl’s, are said to have started to serving it in the 1940s.
In recent decades, the comforting sweet warmth of a Tom & Jerry when Buffalo weather turns chilly has made the drink a winter antidote. Variations and options – DIY kits for making them at home, novel spices, commemorative mugs – debut around Thanksgiving and continue through January and, sometimes, beyond.
This list of 18 stops make for a new culinary Buffalo trail. It’s a window into the regional, idiosyncratic spins on a beloved cocktail. Every place that serves the Tom and Jerry does it with a unique twist. Head to Schwabl’s for their classic brew poured into shimmery vintage peach colored glass mugs. At Resurgence Brewery, try a creation made with sponge-candy-inspired beer. The Tom and Jerry at Mes Que soccer bar on Hertel Avenue has a base of apple brandy and aged rum — with some crushed red pepper for extra heat, a bay leaf for a taste of sassafras and the earthiness of turmeric. At the Place, one of two classic taverns thought to have been among those serving Tom and Jerrys in Buffalo for the longest, is also among the taverns offering commemorative mugs.
“Over the years it just became, more popular and more popular,” said Ellie Grenauer, owner of the Glen Park Tavern. “It’s a warm drink served in our coldest months.”
A server from The Place introduced the drink to her father’s tavern 25 years ago. Now Grenauer’s restaurant, known for its tender beef on weck sandwiches, also sells special mugs and DIY kits packed with tavern-made sweets.
“I love the list,” Grenauer said of the trail stops. “No Tom and Jerry tastes the same. It’s really cool and unique to Buffalo.”
Glen Park Tavern
5507 Main Street, Williamsville, NY
At the Glen Park Tavern, sip your Tom and Jerry while waiting for an order of their famous wings or beef on weck sandwiches. You won’t regret it. When the season starts, Glen Park can go through seven double batches of its batter. That’s 150 drinks. “They just make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside,” said Ellie Grenauer, the owner.
229 Lexington Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Perhaps the most well-known of the Buffalo Tom and Jerry hotspots, The Place is usually packed to the gills around the holidays. Grab a seat at one of their outdoor fire pits for the ultimate winter experience. A benefit of ordering T&Js here is that you get to keep the mug when you’ve had your fill! The Place, which started out as an 1867 stagecoach stop, has been serving Tom and Jerrys since the 1940s.
“Tom and Jerrys bring so many people to The Place to celebrate the holidays,” said Jay McCarthy, owner. He orders the annual commemorative mugs by the thousands. “Every year, we run out,” he said. “It’s a nice problem to have.”
789 Center Road, West Seneca, NY
This place is timeless. You’ll be transported back to the 1930s in this classic Buffalo eatery. At Schwabl’s customers are treated like family, the meat for beef on weck sandwiches is carved fresh and Tom and Jerrys, with dark rum, brandy and a sprinkling of nutmeg, are ladled from a classic serving bowl on the bar and into an authentically old-fashioned Anchor Hocking mug in “peach lustre.” “They’re cool looking,” said Cheryl Staychock, the owner. At Schwabl’s, Tom and Jerrys are served to St. Patrick’s Day. Erin go Tom and Jerry!
1104 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Wall to wall decorations — and thirsty locals – make Cole’s a classic Buffalo holiday experience. In this space filled with seasonal cheer, the Tom and Jerry stands out from the crowd with a meringue base that is more frothy than thick.
669 Wehrle Drive, Cheektowaga, NY
The folks at McPartlan’s do Buffalo food right. Wings, breaded fish fry made fresh daily, beef on week and cheese-capped crocks of French onion soup. The food on the menu is perfect for soaking up their strong Tom and Jerrys. The batter, with lots of rum and brandy, has been a staple for 40 years. They can be had here from Thanksgiving to Lent.
540 Amherst Street, Buffalo, NY
Looking for the Tom and Jerry in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood? You’ll find it at Rohall’s. This long-standing tavern recommends pairing this winter cocktail with a Bills game. They use simple, fresh meringue to ensure the perfect sticky, sweet drink.
3410 Delaware Avenue, Kenmore, NY
While you peruse the huge menu of grain bowls, burgers and entrees of The Delaware, be sure to add a Tom and Jerry to your order. It’s good enough to take home. Batter by the quart can be had to go.
429 Rhode Island Street, Buffalo, NY
Stroll over to the Five Points neighborhood and get a taste of Remedy House’s Tom and Jerry. The unique, cozy café prides itself on an extra-rich batter. Great texture without being cloying. Pair it with a fresh-made pastry or their famous “Egg on a Roll” breakfast sandwich. Grab in seat inside or on the patio.
1127 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Pair your Tom and Jerry with a huge, warm homemade cinnamon bun, made specially for the weekends. There’s a full menu at this North Buffalo diner. Bring a crew. As The Garage likes to say it’s, “where friends gather!”
Resurgence Brewing Company
55 Chicago Street, Buffalo, NY
This is not your father’s Tom and Jerry. Resurgence’s “Tom & Beery” combines the rum with a dose of their very own Imperial Sponge Candy Stout. This warm holiday remix has the sweet addition of one of Buffalo’s traditional chocolate-coated sugar sponge treats – in beer form.
1420 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, NY
OK, all you soccer hooligans, find heaven at Mes Que. A footie bar might not sound like the place to grab a Tom and Jerry, but the bartenders at this Hertel hangout have added a powerful creative kick to the drink. The base of apple brandy and aged rum includes crushed red pepper for some heat, turmeric for earthiness and bay leaf for a hint of sassafras.
537 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
Warm up at this bistro and gin bar downtown with a Graylynn Tom and Jerry: House-made batter, dark rum and brandy. They also sell it to go.
Hoak’s Lakeshore Restaurant
4100 Lake Shore Road, Hamburg, NY
Hoak’s takes pride in its “Grandma Reilly’s Tom and Jerry.” Take a sip of their homemade eggnog with a sunset view of Lake Erie.
1472 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, NY
CRaVing has a creative farm-to-table and East-meets-West menu and serves its Tom and Jerrys on Fridays and Saturdays. It is near Mes Que and makes for another good neighborhood stop.
North Star Tavern
7340 Seneca Street, Elma, NY
The cozy and historic North Star has a Tom and Jerry that its customers have been celebrating for years. Its drink made with a creamy rich batter pairs nicely with a house dessert and can also be ordered for take out.
O’Brien’s West End Inn
340 Union Street, Hamburg, NY
O’Brien’s West End Inn, a bar and restaurant with a smokehouse, begins the holiday season in December with a Tom and Jerry party to celebrate their mugs of spiced rum, brandy and batter with a dusting of nutmeg.
5629 Main Street, Williamsville, NY
Creekview, just down the street from Glen Park Tavern, has a batter that is light and elegant. Great for a second round of Tom and Jerrys.
65 Vandalia Street, Buffalo, NY
The Barrel Factory considers its version of the winter cocktail an Irish Tom and Jerry because it is made with their OFW Whiskey – short for One Fine Whiskey – distilled on site.
Curious to make your own Tom and Jerry? This recipe is a start. Pour it into a favorite mug. For the second batch, experiment and find your own creative take.
Tom & Jerry drink recipe
- your favorite mug
- one ladle-full of batter (recipe below)
- 1 oz. rum (some use bourbon)
- 1 oz. brandy or cognac
- fill with hot water until the batter brims over
- garnish with nutmeg or your favorite holiday spice
Tom & Jerry batter ingredients:
- 12 large eggs, separated, divided
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pound butter, room temperature
- 3 pounds confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- Beat egg whites and salt in a large glass or metal mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Lift your beater or whisk straight up: the egg whites should form a sharp peak that holds its shape.
- Beat egg yolks in a separate large bowl.
- Beat butter and confectioners’ sugar in a third large bowl until light and fluffy; beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and beaten egg whites until well blended.