Tom Collins

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The Tom Collins is a Cocktail which consists of Gin, Fresh Lemon Juice, Sugar, and Soda water.


Earliest Recipe

Jerry Thomas (1876 edition)

  • Tom Collins Gin.
  • (Use small bar-glass.)
  • Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup.
  • Juice of a small lemon.
  • 1 large wine-glass of Gin.
  • 2 or 3 lumps of ice;

Shake up well and strain into a large bar-glass. Fill up the glass with plain soda water and imbibe while it is lively.

According to David Herpin

Most of you know the Tom Collins, but a Collins was also an entire family of drinks. "Family of drinks" is a concept mixologists use to categorize drinks. It's not a new concept at all, in fact, bartenders around the world have been using this categorization system for over 150 years.

It was a common practice (and still is) to name glasses after the drinks that were served in them; such as we see with pousse-cafe, whiskey sour, highball and many others. But in all cases, the drink preceeded the glass, so it's safe to assume the collins drink is what named the glass collins. It is clear that a collins was an American sling.

There is a very little talked about rhyme associated with this drink that is as old as the drink itself;

"My name is John Collins, head waiter at Limmer's, Corner of Conduit Street, Hanover Square;

My chief occupation is filling of brimmers, For all the young gentlemen frequenters there."

It's very likely Tom Collins never existed but John Collins might have according to many early sources, who was this man? the name John derives from the mixology terminology associated with Gin, and Collins was referenced to a Sling. Nearly every story regarding this drink derives from the rhyme written about the man, which he may have wrote. The name Tom comes from "Old Tom" gin and this is the original Collins. So it can be said that a a gin sling with Old Tom gin is a Tom Collins.

It can also be said that a waiter named Collins at Limmer's old house that closed in 1895 (which what is now Limmer's hotel) made several drinks he may have named after himself only modifying the base spirit. It is inconclusive at this time as to the true ingredients of the Tom Collins, the Tom Collins Contains at least:

1 1/2 ounces Old Tom Gin Juice of one Lemon 1 ounce Sugar & Water (Simple Syrup) Served in a Collins Glass filled with (fine Ice or Two Large Cubes) Topped With club Soda Garnished with lemon Peel

This drink dates between 1855 - 1965, It is not mentioned in 1855 Dickens Dictionary of Thames or How to Mix Drinks By Jerry Thomas in 1862, The First printing of this drink that I have found is in Dictionary of Drink and Drinking by Oscar Mendelsohn 1865. There may be earlier printings of this drink, I just have not found them. However, It's worth noting the following references:

Museum of the American cocktail by Robert Hess and Anastatia Miller

Ray Foley mentions this drink History in Bartending for Dummies -

Modern American drinks: Page 44 George J. Kappeler - 1900

Famous New Orleans Drinks By Stanley Clisby 1937

Notes and queries - Oxford Journals (Firm) - 1880 - Questions and answers

Drinks of the world: Volume 1 - Page 140 by James Mew, John Ashton - 1892 - 356 pages

The Independent. (Honolulu, H.I.) 1895-1905, August 22, 1896

Punch: Volume 96 - Page 136 by Mark Lemon, Henry Mayhew, Tom Taylor 1889

The Weekly Kansas chief. (Troy, Kan.) 1872-1918, June 25, 1874

Modern American drinks: How to mix and serve all kinds of cups and ... - Page 44 by George J. Kappeler 1900

Folk-etymology: a dictionary of verbal corruptions or words ... - Page 144 Abram Smythe Palmer - 1890

The new and improved illustrated bartenders' manual; or: How to ... - Page 7 Harry Johnson - 1888

Other recipes

Dale DeGroff, King Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz. Gin
  • 1 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 3/4 oz. Lemon
  • Soda

Shake spirits, sugar and lemon juice with ice and strain into an iced collins glass and fill with soda. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

George Sinclair's Recipe.

  • 50ml London Dry Gin,
  • 35ml Fresh Lemon Juice,
  • 20ml Sugar Syrup,

Shake with ice, and then strain into an ice-filled tall glass; Top with chilled soda-water (Club soda); Garnish with a wedge of lime, which is squeezed onto the top.

What's the difference between a Tom Collins and a Gin Fizz?

Thinking Bartender - Tom Collins Article

"...the Gin Fizz is basically a Gin and Sodawater with a little bit of lemon juice, whereas the Tom Collins contains considerably more lemon juice, basically rendering it as a Gin and Sparkling Lemonade."

Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, by David A Embury, 1948

"...the two are identically the same drink, made in the same manner with the same ingredients......"

Video Demonstrations on the Web

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