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Any booze hound worth his salt will be familiar with the Tom Collins. It’s a classic with roots reaching back over 150 years.  Recipe as follows:

The Tom Collins

  • 2 ounces Old Tom Gin
  • 1.5 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • Carbonated water

Fill a Collins glass or a highball glass halfway with ice.  Add gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup to the glass.  Stir to mix.  Top up with carbonated water (aka, soda water, aka Club Soda) at least 3 ounces, but no more than 4.
Garnish with a lime or lemon wedge.

And now…

The Tom Collins is the *not* the original “Collins.”  By all accounts, the original Collins was the “John Collins.”  Most likely named for the head waiter at a London establishment, the original Collins was made with Holland Gin, not Old Tom Gin.  Holland Gin, or Genever Gin, has as much in common with Whiskey as it does with Gin. Likely, when folks wanted the Collins with Old Tom Gin and not Holland Gin, they switched the name to “Tom Collins.”

By all accounts, the original Collins was the ‘John Collins’

The original Collins could date back to the 1850’s or all the way back to the early 1800’s.  We do know that the recipe was first published in 1869, but by the time that recipe was published, the “John Collins” had already been confused with the “Tom Collins.”

When the Father of American Cocktails, Jerry Thomas (God bless his soul) wrote up his recipe for the Collins, he used the term “Tom Collins” and did call for Gin.  But he also put the “Tom Collins” under the heading “Collins” along with a list of other related “Collins” cocktails.

These days, the term “Tom Collins” is used to describe a carbonated lemonade with Gin.  The variations on the Tom Collins have all been given their own specific monikers:

  • The Phil Collins – A Tom Collins, but with Pisco instead of gin
  • The Brandy Collins – A Tom Collins, but with Brandy instead of gin
  • The Barnabas Collins – A Tom Collins, but with 1 ounce of Sloe Gin and 1 ounce of gin
  • The Comrade Collins – A Tom Collins, but with Vodka instead of gin
  • The Jose Collins – A Tom Collins, but with Tequila instead of gin
  • The Jock Collins – A Tom Collins, but with Scotch instead of gin
  • The John Collins – A Tom Collins, but with Bourbon or Rye whiskey instead of gin, and a cherry garnish
  • The Joan Collins – A John Collins, but with no cherry (old bartender’s joke…sorry)

And there are many, many more variations on the Tom Collins… but my favorite variation… well… that’s a story for tomorrow!