15 December

Blue Blazer image

RIP “Professor” Jerry Thomas

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Blue Blazer

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The godfather of modern bartending, author of the first known cocktail book, and the most famous bartender of his era, Jerry Thomas died in New York on this day in 1885, aged only 55. The New York Times recorded that he had died of "apoplexy", either a stroke or cardiac arrest, soon after returning from work at the Hotel Brighton.

A bartending impresario par excellence, complete with diamond tiepin, pet white rats and jewelled bar tools, he cultivated the image of a creative professional. He was also a man of many interests - minstrel show promoter, gourd collector, artist and art collector - Jeremiah P. Thomas toured not only America but parts of Europe as a travelling bartender and was especially famous for his signature Blue Blazer, made with streams of blazing whisky.

Jerry seems to have claimed, at least when asked, that he was the inventor of the Tom & Jerry cocktail, the creamy seasonal blend that traditionally marks the winter season in the United States. And, while he did not invent the drink - the Tom & Jerry appears in books and diaries from before Thomas' birth in 1830 - we would like to raise a glass of it in his honour. We hope you join us.

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