The Tom Collins Cocktail dates from the mid-1800s with a relatively consistent recipe format. Depending on the granularity of your distinctions, it is sometimes classified as a highball, meaning that the alcohol is a less dominant ingredient. Thus one can drink it rather than sip it, especially since it tastes much like lemonade. Great on a hot day, at a cocktail party, or even with dinner, the Tom Collins is a drink you should know how to make.
Our Preferred Recipe
- 2 oz Old Tom Gin
- 1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
- 4 oz Carbonated Water
Add the gin, lemon juice, and syrup to a shaker half-full of ice, and shake vigorously until very cold. Fill a chilled Collins glass with fresh ice, and strain the gin mixture in. Add the carbonated water, and either stir in the glass until mixed, or serve with a mixing straw. Finally, place the cherry and lemon wedge on top, either loose or with a skewer.
- Select a colorless Old Tom gin for the Tom Collins. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is excellent and widely available.
- Citrus juice should always be fresh squeezed just prior to making the cocktail. A typical lemon will yield enough juice even with the wedge removed for the garnish.
- Stirrings Simple Syrup is reasonably priced and keeps much longer than home-made; however, it is easy to make.
- Any brand of plain (unflavored) club soda will do, though freshly made with filtered water and a SodaStream is a nice touch.
- We recommend Luxardo maraschino cherries.
A Collins glass is taller and narrower than a true highball glass, but no one will notice if you don’t have them. Incidentally, it has become trendy to serve all highballs in a more Collins-like glass. Though regular ice cubes or wedges are standard, cylindrical or other forms add a nice touch and may make it easier to stir the drink. Some recipes call for fine or powdered sugar instead of syrup. This is legitimate, but it is more difficult to mix the drink thoroughly. It is common to see bartenders simply topping off the glass with carbonated water, but it is far better to measure. In the immortal words of Malory Archer, “Tom Collins, and try not to drown it.”
The original drink from which this descends is the John Collins. Its modern recipe simply substitutes bourbon or rye whiskey for the gin, but the original actually included a touch of maraschino liqueur. The John Collins was also made with Genever, which is somewhere between whiskey and gin – if you can get your hands on some, definitely make a Collins with it! The name of the Tom Collins either comes from the substitution of Old Tom gin or the Tom Collins hoax of 1874 (look it up), or both.
If you use London Dry gin and serve it in a smaller glass without ice or garnish (but still shaken cold), it is a Gin Fizz. If you also omit the carbonated water, it is a Gin Sour. If instead you keep the ice and carbonated water but omit the simple syrup and cherry (and optionally replace the lemon juice with lime), it is a Gin Rickey. These are all considered completely different drinks, but they are easily confused.
The Collins recipe is actually a template for a whole class of cocktails with different base liquors or sweetening factors. For example, the Vodka Collins and Brandy Collins simply substitute for the gin, as do the Ron Collins (rum), Jack Collins (applejack), or Juan Collins (tequila). Or, the Jake Collins substitutes pineapple juice for the lemon juice and syrup, while the Kevin Collins substitutes Irish whiskey for the gin and grenadine for the syrup. There is no end to the variations and clever names.
Why You’ll Like the Tom Collins Cocktail
Who doesn’t like lemonade? With gin! The Tom Collins is refreshing and cold, and with a lower alcohol ratio it can quench the thirst while lifting the mood.