Tom Collins Cocktail

Tom Collins and sliced lemons

The Spruce

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 cocktail (1 serving)

With one sip, you'll discover why the Tom Collins is a true classic. It's been a favorite cocktail for over a century and is basically a tall, refreshing gin sour that's incredibly easy to mix up.

The Tom Collins belongs to the Collins family of mixed drinks whose primary differences stem from the choice of the base liquor and, in this case, it's gin. The drink can be traced back to the 1800s because it made an appearance in the first bartending book. As with many recipes in "Professor" Jerry Thomas' "Bon Vivant's Companion," it's very likely that the drink was a hit years before the book's 1877 printing—some sources say it started out as a John Collins.

In case you're wondering why it is called a Tom Collins, it stems from the Tom Collins Hoax of 1874, whereby one person would tell another that someone with that name was speaking ill of him or her at a nearby bar or business, sending that person off to find such an individual and seek revenge. A clever bartender in New York decided to deliver a drink to someone looking for a Tom Collins at his bar, and the name stuck.

Back in Thomas' time, "gin" often referred to Old Tom Gin, Plymouth Gin, or Holland gin (known better as genever, today). If you want a taste of the Tom Collins made in the truly classic style, try it with one of those, but there are of, course, many more choices in gin. It's a rather transparent mix, so your choice will have the greatest impact on the drink's flavor. While you don't need to use the best, it will be better with something that's at least mid-shelf.

Beyond the gin, you will need lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda, which are likely to be in your bar or kitchen right now. (If you don't have club soda, seltzer will do.) Simplicity is one reason why the Tom Collins has long been a staple for drinkers worldwide.

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Tom Collins ingredients
    The Spruce
  2. In a collins glass filled with ice cubes, pour the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup.

    Tom Collins ingredients in glass with ice
    The Spruce
  3. Stir thoroughly.

    Stirring the Tom Collins drink ingredients
     The Spruce
  4. Top with club soda.

    Tom Collins topped with club soda
     The Spruce
  5. Garnish with a cherry and an orange or lemon slice. You can also pin the cherry to the citrus fruit using a cocktail pick and create a garnish known as a flag.

    Tom Collins with cherry and lemon slice garnish
    The Spruce
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Tip

  • If you prefer, shake the gin, juice, and syrup then strain it into a glass with fresh ice. Yet another option is to place a shaker tin over the glass after adding those ingredients and give it a short shake before topping it with soda.

How Strong Is a Tom Collins?

As with most soda highballs, the Tom Collins is a light drink. In fact, the majority of wines are stronger than this cocktail! On average, when made with an 80-proof gin, its alcohol content should be in the 9 percent ABV (18 proof) range. That's perfectly casual and why this has long been a favorite recipe for happy hour.

Recipe Variations

  • You can replace the gin with whiskey to get a John Collins. Similarly, switch to the vodka Collins or the brandy Collins. The rum Collins uses white rum, but the Charlie Collins calls specifically for a Jamaican rum. You can also pour tequila for a Juan Collins.
  • From there, use the Collins formula to create fascinating cocktails with any extra flavors you like. The American Collins, for example, adds bing cherries and blueberries to the gin recipe while the lavender Sapphire Collins uses a floral syrup.
  • When you want something very unique, try the rhubarb Collins with homemade rhubarb syrup.
  • Don't stop there. As you learn to love the Tom Collins and all of its cocktail cousins, you'll begin to daydream about more possibilities. Follow this inspiration and enjoy your new creations.
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