The Tom and Jerry : A Time Honored-Tradition in Watertown, New York
There's no place like home for the holidays. So with my husband, two cats, and in-laws in tow we headed to my hometown of Watertown, New York for Thanksgiving 2016. To say that the 2016 Presidential Election was stressful for all 9 of us at my parent's house (cats included) is the understatement of the century. So we were looking for as many ways as possible to relax and enjoy ourselves for the duration of our trip. The first thing I could think of?
A Tom and Jerry at Watertown's oldest established restaurant, The Crystal.
They say you haven't lived in Watertown, New York until you've had a Tom and Jerry at The Crystal.
I lived there until I was 18 and went off to college, but by the time I could legally drink I had already packed my suitcases for New York City. So my first Christmas back I made sure to partake in this time honored tradition. Twelve years later it's my first and last stop when I come home to visit for the holidays.
What's in a Tom and Jerry? According to Wikipedia, the Tom and Jerry is a warm beverage made of whipped eggs, hot water, booze, and nutmeg. But if you ask me it's like egg nog's sexy cousin that will wink at you and give you a little kick in the tuchus when you're not looking.
These drinks are sweet, hot, delicious, and strong. In my experience, more than two will have you on the floor in no time. Patrons have the option of spiking their cocktails with Captain Morgan, amaretto, or the classic mixture of rum and brandy. I opt for the classic every time.
To walk into The Crystal is to be transported back in time. It's a charming little restaurant that first opened its doors on Watertown's Public Square in 1925. Small and cozy, it boasts old wooden booths, some old timey sconces, and an amazing pressed tin ceiling.
Their menu has many comfort food items and seriously reasonable prices. I'm not kidding. Two eggs, toast, and bacon costs $3.75. And then of course around Christmas, their famous Tom and Jerry for just $5.
My Grandparents frequented The Crystal for years and years. During a quick Google search, I even came across an old photo of them sitting at their booth enjoying a lunch together. Bittersweet.
I chatted with owner of the Crystal, Libby Dephtereos, for a bit before the drinks began to kick in and learned a lot about how she makes them! Hot water to warm the mugs first, then the batter (a secret family recipe), followed by hot water, a shot of alcohol, and topped with cinnamon and nutmeg.
I'm not sure how much the order of assembly matters, but I promise to try it out when I make them on Christmas Eve! You see, I haul my kitchen aid mixer and vintage set of Tom and Jerry bowls and mugs out to Long Island every year for my husband's family gathering! Most of them had never heard of a Tom and Jerry before they met me, but now it's become a cherished tradition of my own that everyone has grown to expect, love, and look forward to.
I've searched high and low for a bar here in New York City that serves a Tom and Jerry and I've yet to find anything comparable. Taking any suggestions!
A lot of businesses in Watertown, New York have concocted their own recipes but in my opinion none can hold a candle to what The Crystal is whipping up. I read that Tom and Jerrys have been served in Watertown since the 1940s at the Crystal, 87 Public Square, where the Dephtereos family has kept the tradition alive for three generations.
"Our place, which was built in 1919, lives off tradition. In fact, we use the same bowl to serve our Tom and Jerry's in that we always have. We got it from the old Woodruff Hotel decades ago and we still use it. In fact we keep it locked up for safe keeping in the restaurant's basement. We sure don't want to lose that thing." (via NewYorkUpstate)
My father's family, The Schuylers, owned a successful piano and music store at the Paddock Arcade, just down the street from The Crystal and the Old Woodruff Hotel.
I imagine that my Great Great Grandparents enjoyed many a Tom and Jerry on Public Square -- maybe from the same Tom and Jerry bowl?
I'll never know but I can imagine it!
Whatever your plans this holiday season, if you're near Watertown, New York -- be sure to drop in to The Crystal and order yourself some Tom and Jerry cocktails. You won't regret it!
Now through New Years!