Tom Collins: A Classic Composed by the Father of Mixology Himself F rom the outside, it would appear that there’s no mystery surroundin...
Tom Collins: A Classic Composed by the Father of Mixology Himself
From the outside, it would appear that there’s no mystery surrounding the Tom Collins,
a classic cocktail made from gin, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated
water over ice. But when one takes a closer look at this libation, first recorded in writing
by Jerry Thomas, the father of American mixology as he is known, in the year 1876,
there’s much more than meets the eye.
It seems what’s in a name does matter for in August of 1891, the weekly British
magazine known as Punch got into it with one Sir Morell Mackenzie. Mackenzie claimed
England was the creator of the Tom Collins in another article for Fortnightly Review,
stating that a John Collins had created it. Punch immediately rebutted to note in August
1891 that the song Mackenzie quoted in his article was one entitled “Jim Collins.”
Interestingly though, a drink called John Collins did exist though. The recipe was in the
Steward and Barkeeper’s Manual of 1869. David Wondrich, a cocktail historian, said
there were several other mentions of this drink earlier on and it is indeed similar to the
gin punches London clubs served up in the earlier part of the 19th century.
As expected, the confusion over this simple yet refined cocktail continued though as
time passed and the Prohibition in the 1920s took hold, finding the roots of it became
less important. Largely though, the recipe from 1876 in Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s
Guide is deemed the original.
According to the recipe, a large bar glass is used (now referred to as a Collins glass). The
recipe calls for a large wine-glass of gin, the juice from a small lemon, about 5 or 6
dashes of simple syrup, and ice to be shaken together and strained into the Collins glass.
The rest of the glass should be filled with soda water. It’s meant to be drunk quickly to
enjoy the fizziness. The result is almost like a sparkling lemonade, and different from
the Gin Fizz in that it is a sweeter rendition.
Popularity swelled for the Tom Collins by 1878, when it was found in every bar in New
York City and was spreading its reach with every day. Alternatives exist if you’re not
much of a gin person. Perhaps the most notable of these is the Juan Collins. With this
version, it changes the gin to tequila and uses agave syrup instead of the simple syrup
from the days of yore.
You can experiment yourself if you’d like. Some have made it with lime juice for a
different twist. Others have added a colored cherry to give it a bit of a visual pop. We
recommend trying out this classic cocktail the next time you want something that tastes
light and refreshing.