It’s Friday … Have a Drink: Tom Collins

It’s Friday … Have a Drink: Tom Collins
Our weekly recommendation.

Spring has arrived, and the longer, warmer days mean we can return to the occasional long drink without fearing that we’re going to freeze into a solid block of ice the moment we take the first sip!

Why not start with the venerable Tom Collins? First described by master bartender Jerry Thomas in the 1876 edition of his Bar-Tender’s Guide, though cocktail historian David Wondrich speculates that it may in fact be a renamed version of a much older drink that went by the name “John Collins” in the 1850s and appears to have an identical recipe. The cocktail may have switched names due to the use of Old Tom gin, or it’s possible it was renamed after a practical joke in which, basically, someone would explain to a friend that a man named Tom Collins was badmouthing that friend, in the hopes that the friend would rush off to confront this imaginary jerk. Apparently this was big fun back in 1874.

The drink itself is notable mainly because it’s a fairly early example of a sparkling cocktail. It’s an easy, safe, friendly cocktail: basically sparkling lemonade with a kick. You’ll be hard-pressed to find too many people who don’t enjoy it, especially on a spring or summer afternoon, kicked back on the porch or hanging out by the pool. To that end, I suggest a light hand on the gin – a scant ounce and a half should do it. If you want something stronger, just add more.

If you find this drink’s a little one note for your style, a good dash or two of bitters and perhaps a quarter ounce of fruit liqueur can add substantial depth of flavor. Oh, and if you don’t have Old Tom gin, use regular gin and add an extra quarter ounce of simple syrup. It’ll work fine.

  • .75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz. Simple Syrup

Combine ingredients in a Collins glass and stir thoroughly. Add ice and top with soda, stirring gently. Garnish with an lemon wedge.

This article is a modified and enhanced version of a post that ran on my nightly cocktail blog, DrinkShouts. Liquors in parentheses are what I used when I made this recipe, and are included as suggestions.

Christopher Buecheler is a novelist, a web developer, an award-winning amateur mixologist, a brewer, a guitarist, a drummer, and an NBA enthusiast. He lives a semi-nomadic life with his wife and two cats, currently residing in Providence, RI. You can learn more at his website, cwbuecheler.com.

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  • John Markle

    The perfect drink for a sunny day.

  • Jacob Crim

    This is my all time favorite hot day drink. Followed closley by the French 75. I’ve had some Tom Collins with egg white like Whiskey Sour. Which I thought was interesting but the bartender informed me that ALL sours should have egg white to give body/cut the acidity. I still havent nailed it with a tom collins though.