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Seeing the year out with Tom and Jerry

18 December 2020

Jonathan Marriott, Chief Investment Officer

COVID-19 has made 2020 an horrendous year for many people. As we near year-end, lockdowns around the world and a rising death toll will make it hard for anyone to celebrate as they normally would. Christmas has its origins in a mid-winter festival when we look forward to longer days and warmer weather to come. The recent vaccine news gives us hope that things can get better in the New Year. To end the year, rather than more economic commentary, we give you a story and recipe to bring you some cheer and warmth.

At Christmas a few years ago, I was given an old print, which showed “Tom and Jerry” riding in Hyde Park. It made me wonder 'Who were Tom and Jerry?' and 'Could there be a connection to a well-known cartoon cat and mouse?' Research took in the highs and lows of Regency London - from 19th century cocktail bars and the mountains of Montana to Hanna Barbera and MGM. The link in the story is a warm cocktail that will lift the spirits in the heart of winter.

The antique print was from a book entitled “Life in London” by Pierce Egan, published in 1821, which related the adventures of Jerry Hawthorne and his friend Corinthian Tom. Jerry, who comes from the country, is shown around the high life and low life of London. They visit sites across London including the Royal Exchange and see the men of business gathered there. Some things don’t change and, when the pandemic is over, you may see LGT Vestra staff there. Also nearby our office, they visit the Half Moon tap where the boxing fraternity gathered. This is now the New Moon pub in Leadenhall Market.

Tom and Jerry get up to all sorts of drunken adventures. One evening, they fall into company that compels them to swallow repeated “flashes of lightning” and now and then a “clap of thunder” with a “damper to make all cool again”; that is, repeated glasses of Gin, Brandy and Porter, after which they were all getting rather “funny”.  Measures of spirits were sometimes called “nails in the coffin,” but a damper was said to cool the spirits and pull the nails out. It was only when it was too late to be corrected that they found the error in this. Finding a Charley (night watchman) asleep in his box, they turn over the box (with him in it) to great hilarity. The noise rouses the other guardians of the night and our friends flee, eluding capture. On another occasion, they end up at Bow Street Magistrates Court. In the 19th century, going 'Tom and Jerry' was a common term for having a wild time.

The book and illustration were enormously popular and reprinted in New York, Paris and Dublin. It remained in print for many years - my own copy is a 1904 edition. In the 1820s, there were extravagant stage versions which elaborated on the story. One included a horse race with a track that started on stage, went over the audience and did a circuit outside before finishing back on stage. Meanwhile, Pierce Egan invented a drink called 'Tom and Jerry' as part of an effort to promote the shows.

In 1862, Jerry Thomas published the 'Bar-Tenders Guide', subtitled 'How To Mix Drinks' or the 'Bon Vivant’s Companion'. This contained recipes for over two hundred cocktails, including one called 'Tom and Jerry'. While this was published in New York, the self-styled “Professor of Mixology” had travelled round Europe gathering recipes as he went. 'Tom and Jerry', a warm concoction of spirits and eggs, caught on and became popular in America. In Damon Runyon’s 1938 short story 'Dancing Dan’s Christmas', it says, ‘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.' Even today, you can find cartons of ready-made 'Tom and Jerry' mix for sale in America as well as special mixing bowls and cups for serving the drink.

Tom and Jerry were created in 1940 by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The characters first appeared in 'Puss Gets the Boot', although in the first film the cat was called Jasper and the mouse, unnamed, was referred to by the crew as Jinx. The film was a success and MGM commissioned the next ten films, wanting new names for the cat and mouse. They held a competition and Tom and Jerry won. There is no way to confirm the link, but it seems likely that this came from the drink.

The 'Bar-Tenders Guide' was recently reprinted, however the recipe requires 12 eggs and five pounds of sugar, and makes enough for about a hundred people. The recipe below I have tried and can heartily recommend as a real warmer for a cold winter's day. It came from an American friend whose grandfather, Willie Rinio, was a band leader in the 1930s and made it for family gatherings at Christmas. It comes in two stages: first you make a batter, then you mix the drink. It may look daunting, but is delicious and worth the effort.

Thus, from a Christmas present, we can connect Regency London to a cartoon cat and mouse.

Wishing all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Healthy New Year.

Mugs - 1200x250

'Tom and Jerry' Cocktail - Method

Making the batter

Separate the yolks and whites of three eggs.  Mix the egg yolks and add 1 pound of sugar a little at a time while continuing to mix.  As they get thick add a good half jigger of rum a little at a time.  This will kind of cut the batter so it will mix again. It is hard to get the whole pound of sugar into the yolks without adding the rum as it gets very thick. However, you want it thick, so do not add too much rum.

Next beat the egg whites until they are quite thick and then fold the whites into the yolks with a wooden spoon-very gently a stir or two at a time.

To make the Tom and Jerry drink

Put half a shot glass of whiskey and half a shot glass of brandy (or just brandy) into a mug. Fill the mug with hot milk (or boiling water) to within half an inch of the top. Then add one or two heaped tablespoons of Tom and Jerry batter to the top of the drink. Sprinkle with a dab of nutmeg and stir gently with a spoon.

Note a jigger and a shot glass appear to be the same size a US fluid ounce or 45 ml but tradition has it that you can allow it to flow over.

This recipe contains raw egg so may not be appropriate for some readers.

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