Only weeks in the past, I had a Cocktail Talk from the Robert Barnard story “Boxing Unclever,” which was featured in the awesome anthology The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, which is both big as advertised (my version nearly 800 pages) and bouncing over with holiday cheer – meaning, murders, thievery, and the like, with authors ranging from 100s (or thereabouts) of years old to more modern fare. It’s a winter gem! This Cocktail Talk is in the older bracket, though not old in a pejorative sense! The story is by Damon Runyon, and, weirdly, I used to rent an apartment near where he was born in Manhattan, KS! He made his mark in the other Manhattan, where his writing on the glittering and tarnished made him famous. This story starts on a scrumptious holiday high note with the below quote, and then rolls its prohibition-y way from there, in a language and style right on time.
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 one 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.
–Damon Runyon, Dancing Dan’s Christmas