A Kick of Holiday Cheer

Yuletide Musings on Tom and Jerry

On first swallow it’s vile, but, you aren’t sure and want another swallow just in case and so it goes until your cup is empty and you are aglow with the love of all mankind. Damon Runyon describes it best in his short story, Dancing Dan’s Christmas:

Now one time it comes on Christmas, and in fact it is the evening before Christmas, and I am in Good Time Charley Bernstein’s little speakeasy in West Forty-seventh Street, wishing Charley a Merry Christmas and having a few hot Tom and Jerrys with him.

This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.

But anybody will tell you that there is nothing that brings out the true holiday spirit like hot Tom and Jerry.”

You can find the rest of his story here:

Damon Runyon’s Dancing Dan’s Christmas

When I was younger I would come upon these huge old punch bowls in various styles and sizes in antique stores  and wonder what they were. Fancy or plain they all had that name, “Tom and Jerry” on them, like the Hannah Barbara Cartoon:


Shop owners, if they knew what those bowls and cup’s were, would say something like, “No, not the cartoon, it’s a Christmas drink that everyone used to serve at Christmas parties and you had to have a special bowl for it. Everyone had one.”

And so the drink came first. Tom and Jerry, the cat and mouse, were named after the drink. By the way, if you are interested you can find quite a few Tom and Jerry sets out there for sale in cyber-space. The majority of the ones I had seen in mid-western antique stores were made of glass, the type of glass you still saw around in five and dime stores in the 60’s. What I didn’t know until tonight, until I searched, is that you can find sets from the 19 through the 20th century. The history goes back much further than I realized. This from ebay.

My first encounter with a real Tom an Jerry came a few years ago as I was strolling down a cold, icy street in Chicago and saw a sign in Miller’s Pub on Wabash that advertised in bold letters, “Tom and Jerry’s are Back!” Curiosity got the best and we went in. I left that Pub kissing light posts.

There would be a photo here if not for the fact that after one Tom and Jerry I can’t work the camera. Here is a photo from WISCH LIST

The following Christmas we made the drink at home. It was a rather involved and messy recipe. It’s kind of fun to make. I am not advocating getting drunk for the holidays, but we all celebrate in various ways and it’s nice to know our history of Christmas celebrations. You can have a slice of that history at Miller’s Pub in Chicago. Last year, after 57(?) years of tradition their new chef, of Mexican descent, made it is his own and added quite a kick of cinnamon, it was rather like that old youtube sensation, the cinnamon challenge. You might ask for the cinnamon on the side, for me, nutmeg is the go to for anything Nog.

As in all things hep, Esquire does it better than anyone else, link to recipe below. We are thinking of mixing some of this up, more fun with two, then staying in.

Merry Christmas!

Esquire does EVERYthing better, Tom and Jerry Recipe


5 thoughts on “A Kick of Holiday Cheer

    • YES! And a lovely Holiday to you across the pond!

      Oh, I was looking at one of your posts yesterday, lost the page, I think it was the Tate? Can’t be, that’s a big museum, I think I’d remember that. Anyway, looking through your photos I was musing “Cool, look at all the Pre-Raphaelites.” and I wondered if it was a speciality at that particular museum. But I lost the page, couldn’t remember the name of the museum. You cover a lot of interesting places. Do you know off the top of your head what the museum was as I’d like to look at their website to see more Pre-Raphaelites.

      Thanks!…or post the link here if you know the name of the museum from my sorry description.

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