Any connoisseur of gin cocktails has likely had a Tom Collins or two, as this simple and classic drink has been around for at least 145 years. Made with only 4 simple ingredients, this cocktail is refreshing and easy to whip up.
What you might not know is that this cocktail was the subject of a 19th-century viral marketing campaign, which came to be known as “The Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874.”
There’s nothing better than a nice Tom Collins on a pleasant summer’s day. To be honest, though, they’re also pretty darn good in the fall, winter, and spring.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know!
What Is a Tom Collins?
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A Tom Collins is a cocktail made using gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and carbonated water. The first recipe published for this refreshing, bubbly cocktail appeared in 1876 by Jerry Thomas, who is considered “the father of American mixology.”
How Do You Make Tom Collins From Scratch?
It’s a fairly simple drink to make, and you can top it off with some fun garnishes to take it to the next level.
This recipe makes one cocktail, so to make a batch you can easily multiple the measurements.
- Lemon juice – Fresh squeezed
- Simple syrup
- Sparkling water or club soda
- Lemon slice for garnish
- Cherry for garnish – Cocktail cherry or fresh
As you can see, making a Tom Collins doesn’t require any particularly exotic ingredients. You can always have what you need on hand, meaning that a refreshing drink is always only moments away.
Simple Syrup – First, you’ll need to make the simple syrup. To do this, you’ll combine 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 of sugar in a small saucepan. You can also use honey if you want to mix it up a little bit. Warm this mixture over medium heat while whisking occasionally.
Combine the Ingredients – Pour the gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice into a tall glass filled with ice.
Top with Sparkling Water – Pour the sparkling water or club soda over and gently stir the cocktail with a spoon.
Garnish – Then, add a lemon slice and a cherry to garnish!
(Looking for something a little more limey than lemony? Check out our Moscow mule recipe here.)
Tom Collins Variations
While the classic is a delight, there are a lot of fun things you can do to keep things interesting. Whether you want to switch up the liquor or make the drink extra strong, here are some ways to switch it up:
Champagne Tom Collins
For an extra-strong cocktail, swap out the sparkling water for Champagne, Cava, or Prosecco. This one’s delicious but definitely packs a punch, so use caution!
Elderflower Tom Collins
In this variation, you substitute some or all of the simple syrup with an elderflower liqueur. We recommend St. Germain.
Herb-Infused Tom Collins
When you’re making your simple syrup, why not add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, or lavender? To maximize your infusion, leave the herbs in until the syrup has completely cooled. Another option is to add fresh basil or mint as a garnish.
Honey-Sweetened Tom Collins
This is a simple variation that is totally lovely. Use honey instead of sugar to make your simple syrup and notice the wonderful way that the floral flavors of honey dance with the botanical notes of the gin.
Vodka or Bourbon Tom Collins
Try some bourbon or if you’re simply not a gin-person, consider using vodka instead.
Cucumber Tom Collins
Perfect for a hot summer’s day, use Hendrik’s gin and then add some fresh cucumber slices to the shaker before shaking your drink.
What’s the Difference Between a Tom Collins and a John Collins?
A Tom Collins and a John Collins are basically the same drink except for the type of gin you use. For a John Collins, you use a London Dry Gin, while you use Old Tom Gin for a traditional Tom Collins.
An interesting note on Tom Collins’ history is that it used to be hard to come by Old Tom Gin. However, a recent resurgence in interest means that you can easily find the gin you need to please any Tom Collins purists you might know.
What Does a Tom Collins Taste Like?
To put it simply, it’s basically an adult lemonade. Fizzy, refreshing, and citrusy, you can also taste some herbal notes that come from the gin.
What Is the Best Gin For a Tom Collins?
For a traditional drink, you’ll want to try it out with Old Tom gin first. Two good brands to try are Ransom and Hayman’s. However, these days we really use any gin we have on hand. Here are a few of our favorites:
- The Botanist
- Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- Gray Whale Gin
- St George’s Terroir Gin
- Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
- Hendrick’s Gin
- Eden Mill
- Monkey 47
Why Is it Called a Collins Glass?
Collins glasses are also sometimes called highball glasses. This glass is best for drinks that contain more than one mixer and are diluted with a lot of ice.
It’s called a Collins glass after the Tom Collins itself, but can be great for other cocktails like mojitos or Palomas.
More Cocktail Recipes You’ll Love
This simple but delicious drink is something that you can whip up pretty much any old time, which is a part of its charm.
Let us know if you make this cocktail by leaving a comment and review below.
Tom Collins Recipe
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounces lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces sparkling water, or club soda
- 1 lemon slice
- 1 cherry , cocktail cherry and fresh cherry
- Simple Syrup – First, you’ll need to make the simple syrup. To do this, you’ll combine 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 of sugar in a small saucepan. You can also use honey if you want to mix it up a little bit. Warm this mixture over medium heat while whisking occasionally.
- Combine the Ingredients – Pour the gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice into a tall class filled with ice.
- Top with Sparkling Water – Pour the sparkling water or club soda over and gently stir the cocktail with a spoon.
- Garnish – Then, add a lemon slice and a cherry to garnish!