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Hot time of year for Tom & Jerry; now drink up at home with take-home batter!

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The Tom & Jerry Christmastime cocktail craze has reached a new dimension in Watertown.

“This is the first season we are making our own batter available for private parties and things like that,” said David Bartlett, owner of Johnny D’s in the Paddock Arcade.

For those unaccustomed to the Tom & Jerry, its batter is the lifeblood of the adult holiday treat. Each tavern has its own recipe of the egg-based concoction, which is not readily shared. Add at least two varieties of strong liquor, water and/or milk and various spices and/or sweeteners to the batter, and you have the basis for a Tom & Jerry.

If you want to take a Tom & Jerry taste home from Johnny D’s, it will cost you $48.50 for a large batter and $24.50 for a small.

The large batch is enough to make 33 4-ounce portions, and the small batch will make 16 of the drinks.

“It turns out like Marshmallow Fluff when you freeze it,” Mr. Bartlett said.

But from then on, you are on your own as to what liquor you add, which may or may not be a good thing.

At the Crystal Restaurant, the place in Watertown best known for Tom & Jerrys, the batter has been whipped up behind closed swinging doors since the 1940s and served from Black Friday through New Year’s Day. The drinks are served in mugs with popsicle sticks.

On Friday night, before the city’s tree lighting ceremony, a wall-to-wall crowd was gathered at the stand-up bar at the Crystal around the black, gold-lettered Tom & Jerry bowl like it was a divine campfire.

Seated at a table near the bar, awaiting dinners were Douglas A. Spooner, his wife, Karen K., and daughter Alison of Dexter.

Mr. Spooner recalled the day decades ago when he and buddies went on a Tom & Jerry spree at the Crystal, 87 Public Square.

“We built a log cabin out of the popsicle sticks,” Mr. Spooner said. “A group of us had a number of them.”

He said the cabin, built upon one of the tables and about 4 inches tall, didn’t fall apart.

“It was quite sturdy,” he said.

At another table, Philip and Yuvon Marra of Watertown came for dinner and Tom & Jerrys. Mrs. Marra said she has only one of them a year.

“One is enough!” she said, laughing.

This is the fourth year that Mr. Bartlett has served the drink at Johnny D’s. Jamie N. Thatcher of Carthage had never had a Tom & Jerry before Friday. She was told about the drink by a friend who is a waitress at Johnny D’s.

“It’s very, very good,” Mrs. Thatcher said several minutes after finishing one of the drinks, served in an 8 ounce glass. “It’s strong and sweet, with a cherry taste to it. But I’m not a real big liquor drinker. My normal thing is wine.”

Mr. Bartlett noted that besides his establishment and the Crystal, the Paddock Club, down the hall from his place at the Paddock Arcade, also serves Tom & Jerrys.

“You could do the Tom & Jerry trifecta downtown,” Mr. Bartlett said.

But he said each one will taste different, which he thinks is a good thing.

“To me, a Tom & Jerry is like a pizza,” Mr. Bartlett said. “Some people might enjoy a pizza from here, some might enjoy one from Cam’s and another might enjoy one from OIP. Everybody has a little different twist on them and everybody has a different taste.”

Robert Dalton, owner of the Paddock Club, said he has also noticed people making the Tom & Jerry rounds at the three establishments and it’s becoming a Watertown tradition.

This is the seventh year in a row Mr. Dalton has served Tom & Jerrys, but being a cocktail bar, he said he also serves an assortment of holiday cocktails, such as his “holiday martinis.”

His Tom & Jerry batter, Mr. Dalton said, is a confectionery sugar/egg batter mix. His Tom & Jerry finished product, he said, is topped off with something others don’t use.

“We stick a praline, a chocolate wafer, on ours,” he said.

return to lewis county

Last year, the Cottage Inn on 9794 Route 12, Copenhagen, Lewis County, began serving Tom & Jerrys after a break of about 15 years. Denise and David Young reopened the inn in the summer of 2011. The big old house has been in Denise’s family for many years operating as a country bar and eatery on and off since the ‘60s. The establishment was twice owned by her mother, Alice VanCour, and the VanCours operated the inn for 30 of its 120-year history

Judy A. Young, sister of Denise, and co-manager of the Cottage Inn, said the recipe for the Tom & Jerry batter is from Mrs. VanCour.

“It’s been in the family forever,” she said.

The drink, she said, has been well received. “I don’t know anybody else up here (in Lewis County) who sells them,” she said.

Mrs. Young said she doesn’t want to “give away all her secrets,” but the drink includes three kinds of liquor. Staff began serving the drinks on Thanksgiving and will continue until New Year’s Day.

a classic in st. lawrence

The Place is the oldest pub in Ogdensburg, and its Tom & Jerry drink also has a storied history. According to the pub’s website, in 1953 Jimmy Mills, an Ogdensburg native who had worked on Wall Street since the post-prohibition era in 1934 , took ownership of the tavern. Mr. Mills introduced the “original Tom & Jerry batter mix” that’s still used today.

“It’s been a tradition in Ogdensburg because The Place, (1612 Ford St.) is the oldest tavern in Ogdensburg,” said William McNally, who, with his wife Maureen, purchased the pub in 2008.

Mr. McNally said Mr. Mills, who died in 1991, acquired the Tom & Jerry batter recipe in the 1950s from Ogdensburg candy makers Dick and Joe Schneider. The drinks were first served at The Place in 1953. Nowadays, they are served there from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

n n n

According to Times files, the Tom & Jerry drink takes its name from a popular English novel of 1821, “Life in London.” Its subtitle may be more revealing: “The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne Esq. and his eloquent friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis.”

The novel’s author, Pierce Egan, was a celebrity in his time whose public appearances gave a lustre of respectability to “bull-baiting, cock-fighting, cudgelling, wrestling, boxing.”

Other cocktail historians have said that the Tom & Jerry is the pre-Civil War invention of an American master of mixology, Professor Jerry Thomas.

Professor Thomas in 1862 published “The Bon Vivant’s Companion, or How to Mix Drinks,” apparently the world’s first cocktail recipe book. In it he described the Tom & Jerry as “a modern invention” that is “generally used on fishing and other sporting parties.”

“Tom and Jerry” entered the English lexicon as more than a potent cold-weather beverage. In 1894, a “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” defined a Tom and Jerry house as “a low-class beer house.” And Tom-and-Jerrying, used as a verb, was slang for “loutish, though endearing, behavior.”





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