Tom Collins

Served in a vessel aptly named after the inventor of the cocktail, the Tom Collins is a towering, icy drink served in a thin-walled Collins glass. With likeness to a Gin Sling or Gin Fizz, the Tom Collins is a refreshing cocktail made with gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice, a bit of sugar, and carbonated water. It's thirst-quenching and refreshing, with balanced sweet and sour flavors along with an enticing, fizzy finish.

Tom Collins
Photo: Guillermo Riveros / Food Styling by Oset Babür-Winter
Servings:
1

The first notable mention of the Tom Collins was in 1882, in a cocktail handbook pithily titled New and Improved Bartender's Manual or How to Mix Drinks of the Present Style, by Harry Johnson. Johnson's recipe for the Tom Collins calls for Old Tom Gin, an older gin which, unlike London Dry Gin, has a bit of sweetness that really brings out the flavors of grain in the spirit. Shortages in sustainable, consistent grain sources in England in the mid-1800s spurred the transition from grain-forward Old Tom Gin to London Dry Gin, which instead draws its signature flavor from botanicals like juniper. The simplicity of a Tom Collins allows for the gin to really shine, and we recommend trying your hand at making one with Old Tom Gin as well as London Dry to better understand the difference between the two spirits (though, if you happen to have the good fortune to try a gin aged in red wine barrels, we certainly won't try to stop you).

In the 1980s, nearly 100 years after the cocktail's inception, the quality of Tom Collins drinks took a serious hit due to the prominence of sour mix in bars across America. While the original cocktail recipe calls for sugar and citrus, bartenders at the time often opted for super saccharine bottled sour mix in lieu of freshly squeezed lemon and superfine sugar. "The Tom Collins never tasted the same after the invention of sour mix," laments restaurant critic and highly opinionated cocktail-drinker Pete Wells. "But there's no reason to take this supposed shortcut; mixing the drink from scratch is really very simple." The no-frills, straightforward Tom Collins makes for great sipping all year long, and even any time of day for that matter. Read on to learn how to make a Tom Collins using ingredients you likely already have in your home bar.

Ingredients

  • Club soda (such as Fever Tree)

  • 1 ¾ teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • ¼ cup gin (such as Tanqueray)

  • Maraschino cherry (for garnish)

  • Lemon wheel (for garnish)

Directions

  1. Pour the lemon juice into a collins glass. Add the superfine sugar and stir briskly to dissolve.

  2. Fill the glass with ice and add the gin.

  3. Top off the glass with club soda and stir. Garnish with a lemon wheel and maraschino cherry.

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