FLAHERTY’S TOM & JERRY BATTER
73 Years Ago, Billy Flaherty Had a Great Idea!
On a cold and snowy November day in 1947, Billy Flaherty is hard at work in the kitchen of a relative’s St. Paul restaurant where he is finalizing the trial and error perfection of his family’s Tom & Jerry recipe. The recipe was brought over by the Flaherty family from Ireland in 1927 and for years, Billy’s mom and dad enjoyed making Tom & Jerry batter at home to serve for the holidays. Billy, being an entrepreneur, was determined to perfect and package the decades-old family Tom & Jerry recipe to sell this traditional holiday drink.
After much experimentation, on November, 1, 1948, Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry Batter was introduced to the American public for retail sales to bars, grocery, and liquor stores. For the first time, you could have a Tom & Jerry in your home for the holidays without all the work of making it from scratch. Ever since then, Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry Batter has always been the #1 choice of Tom & Jerry connoisseurs for the holidays. To this day, the Flaherty family is proud to sell their traditional family recipe, which blends the finest natural ingredients, along with love and care for the tradition of the Tom & Jerry drink itself to you.
For 7 decades, Billy’s entrepreneurial spirit has been rewarded with popular acceptance for Flaherty’s original Tom & Jerry Batter and success for Flaherty’s Happy Tyme Company. In the meantime, the whole family got into the act to make it work. Billy’s wife, Shirley, was the original bookkeeper, taking care of the books and handling all those pesky financial transactions entrepreneurs hate to deal with. With family involvement, Billy expanded from serving only the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to a four-state region within 5 years. Billy’s sons, Denny, Gary, and Jay have been in the Tom & Jerry business from their pre-teen years to the present. Each son has taken his turn riding with his father on his delivery route. Gary and Jay remember how Billy would stand in the customer’s doorway and using hand signals, tell the boys how many quarts of Tom & Jerry Batter needed to be retrieved and brought into the customer. One of a few truly generational family businesses in the Midwest, the Flaherty boys will be seen, as always, this November through January, delivering Tom & Jerry Batter to stores, continuing the tradition Billy started in 1947.
For many years, the Tom & Jerry was the most popular holiday drink in America. They hit their peak of popularity in the 1940’s, ‘50’s, ‘60’s, and ‘70’s as Tom & Jerry parties popped up in homes and offices everywhere. In the 1980’s drinking hard liquor changed to beer and wine. With the resurgence of traditional cocktails in recent years, Tom & Jerry’s are making a comeback as more and more people try this drink for the first time, thus helping to bring back a tradition that their grandparents and their grandparents’ families enjoyed for decades.
Today, Flaherty’s original Tom & Jerry Batter is manufactured in 3 locations under strict family supervision. Over the years, changes in public tastes, trends, and public health rules have put 26 competitors out of business. Through it all the Flaherty family continues to produce a high quality, fully pasteurized product. The Flaherty family has been fully pasteurizing their Tom & Jerry Batter since 1961; investing in costly pasteurizing equipment while larger competitors tried to get by without further investments.
In a recent interview, Denny Flaherty recalled several early efforts by his dad that propelled Tom & Jerry sales forward. In 1960, Billy became friends with Brother Timothy of San Francisco-based Christian Brothers Brandy, and a close association developed. The promotion of Christian Brothers Brandy being used as the perfect brandy to make a Tom & Jerry benefitted both Christian Brothers and Flaherty’s Happy Tyme Company. That promotion continues to this day. In 1980, a gentleman from Bacardi Rum by the name of Marty Coyne was instrumental in getting the folks at Bacardi Rum to cross-promote Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry Batter and Hot Buttered Rum Mix along with their world-famous Bacardi Dark Rum. That relationship also exists still today.
Denny also recounted how his dad, being a true promoter, contacted Hugh Hefner’s Playboy organization and had Playboy Bunnies handing out free samples of Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry drinks at the 1963 International Food Show in Chicago. Despite Billy almost ending up in divorce court over hiring the Bunnies, 3 weeks later, in November of 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the promotion fell flat due to the dark mood of the country.
A lifelong entrepreneur, Billy passed on his talents and energy to his boys. Each of Billy’s boys own and operate their own businesses but they all take time out from their respective businesses for 6 weeks of the year to sell Tom & Jerry Batter. Denny owns and operates Continental Fire Adjusters, a public insurance adjusting firm, with offices in 5 states. (Public Adjusters are adjusters who represent the people, not the insurance company.) Jay has both a successful sports memorabilia business and E-bay company. Gary and his wife, Clara, own a thriving job placement agency, Advanced Staffing, which provides jobs and services to business and industry.
During the past 73 years more than 20 million quarts of Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry Batter have been manufactured and sold. Billy Flaherty’s idea has come a long way from selling his homemade recipe from the back of a beat-up old station wagon. Today Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry Batter is stocked in fine liquor retailers and grocery stores in a 10-state area as well as being shipped all over the country from Arizona to New York and is still the number one choice of Tom & Jerry lovers nationwide!
Thirty-one years ago, Denny and his wife Joy took the family business in new directions. In addition to the core business of Tom & Jerry Batter, they added a gourmet food and candy division. Since adding that division, Flaherty’s the Irish Candy Company now has 34 products, including 18 gourmet candies which features Flaherty’s Emerald Isle Toffee. Other items available include goodies such as Aunt Edna’s Caramels, Mrs. Flaherty’s Fudge, and Irish Tea Cakes. Also included are hot drink mixes such as Hot Spiced Wine Mix, Egg Nog Mix, Hot Buttered Rum Mix, Hot Brandy Batter, and Pine Mountain Simmering Spices which are available everywhere through mail order, here on our website, or by calling 1-800-331-7337.
THE HISTORY OF TOM & JERRY
The year was 1736. The place was London, England. It was a cold and snowy December that year, and for two lads trying to make a success of a tavern they owned on the south side of London called “The Last Schilling” it was even colder.
Business had been off for weeks due to the bad weather but the lads were determined to make a go of their business, especially since it was the holiday season. “We need to create a new and interesting drink for the holiday season that will bring business back to our tavern!” the lads declared. So, for eight solid days they experimented with every concoction available to them during that period. One of the lad’s wives, who was famous for her Yorkshire pudding, helped come up with a recipe that included eggs, sugar, and vanilla which she whipped into a batter similar to one of her pudding recipes. The batter was put into a mug and served with piping hot water and a shot of liquor. It was stirred and garnished with olde English nutmeg. (After experimenting with several liquors, it was determined that ½ jigger of dark rum and ½ jigger of brandy was the best combination to use.) On December 15, 1736, the new drink, which was created to help save the business of Tom McDunn and Jerry Blair, was introduced to London and became a resounding hit throughout all of England, and later Ireland, within weeks. The drink became known as a Tom & Jerry because of the two lads who owned the bar that invented it.
By the early 1800’s, the Tom & Jerry had been popularized in all of Europe. It was now being served in all countries traditionally from Thanksgiving through the start of the New Year. The Tom & Jerry drink first arrived in America in the early 1900’s by way of Irish immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.
For decades, families of all nationalities in America would look forward to making Tom & Jerry part of their holiday tradition. The tradition of making Tom & Jerry’s for Christmas Eve with families, each claiming to have their own secret recipe, became as popular as the arrival of old St. Nick himself.
The Tom & Jerry was the most popular holiday drink in America of all time for many decades. They hit their peak of popularity in the mid-twentieth century as Tom & Jerry parties popped up in homes and offices everywhere. In the 1970’s they started disappearing from the holiday scene as people switched from drinking hard liquor to beer and wine. With the resurgence of traditional cocktails in recent years, Tom & Jerry’s are making a comeback and as more and more people try this drink for the first time, they are helping to bring back a tradition that their grandparents and their grandparent’s grandparents enjoyed during their lives.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST TOM & JERRY DRINK
Pre-heat a 10-12 oz. mug. Then fill it half full of Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry Batter. Add ½ shot of dark rum along with ½ shot of good brandy. Fill the remainder of the mug to the brim with either piping hot water or milk. Top with grated nutmeg and serve with a stirring spoon.
THE HISTORY OF FLAHERTY’S TOM & JERRY BATTER
Billy Flaherty’s family was one of the Irish immigrants who brought this drink called Tom & Jerry to America. Billy’s dad, who was from County Galway in Ireland, and his mother, who was from County Cork, brought this traditional holiday drink recipe with them from the olde country.
For many decades, Billy’s mom and dad enjoyed making Tom & Jerry’s at home to serve for the holidays. Billy, being an entrepreneur, was determined to package his family’s Tom & Jerry recipe for retail sales to the American public. After a couple of years of experimentation, on November 1, 1947, Flaherty’s Tom & Jerry Batter was introduced to the retail market. For the first time, you could have a Tom & Jerry in your home for the holidays without all of the work of making it from scratch. To this day, the Flaherty brothers, Denny, Gary, & Jay are proud to sell their traditional family recipe, which blends the finest natural ingredients, along with love and care for the holiday tradition of the Tom & Jerry drink itself to you and your family.
Enjoy a Tom & Jerry this season! Cheers!
Click here to visit our Recipes page for even yummier Tom & Jerry recipes!