The Tom Collins is an old, classic gin cocktail. A simple gin sour made long with soda water, it even has its own glass—the Collins glass, named after it. The Collins is sour with all the herbaceous and floral notes you’d expect from a gin cocktail. Think of it as grown up lemonade.
Gin, Lemon Juice, Sugar Syrup, Soda – High-Ball*
*premium glassware pictured, event glassware may differ.
The Tom Collins is one of the oldest and most classic high-ball cocktails, a simple combination of gin, lemon and sugar, topped with a generous splash of soda.
This perfectly honed concoction is a deliciously light and elegant cocktail and a sure-fire hit at any bar hire. The Tom Collins is the original fizz and in fact, the glass most often used for fizzes, the high-ball takes its other name from this drink, often being referred to as a ‘Collins glass.’
Fizzes like the Tom Collins are a great way to balance out a menu populated by short strong cocktails, like a classics selection or a sours menu. Because of the added soda water, fizzes are a long and refreshing way of drinking making them perfect for long parties or hot summer days.
Many sours can be converted into fizzes with the simple addition of soda water, so if you’re already thinking of serving drinks like The Empress; a lychee and elderflower flavoured vodka sour, or the Daiquiri; a classic rum and lime sour, offering fizz-styled alternatives is an easy and effective way to please guests who prefer their cocktails on the lighter side.
The Tom Collins is an excellent classic in its own right and would sit perfectly amongst a classically styled menu, there are hundreds of delicious classic cocktails out there and some of our favourites to serve alongside a Tom Collins include, the Sidecar, a French, cognac based sour, featuring orange liqueur and a distinctive sugar rim, and the Whiskey Sour, a beautifully warming, creamy sour made with bourbon, lemon, sugar and egg whites to give it its characteristic, cloud-like texture.
If you’re planning on serving a Tom Collins as part of your cocktail menu and want to know what other drinks might work well with it, be sure to speak to your event organiser about your options or check out some other gin-based, classic and high-ball-style cocktails from our list.
The Tom Collins has been around in some form or another since at least the late 19th century. It’s first published appearance was in the second edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide or How to Mix Drinks in 1876. The naming of the drink is under some contention, in Thomas’s original book the name Tom Collins is given to a whole family of drinks combining lemon, sugar, soda water and a liquor of choice, and it wasn’t until later that it became chiefly associated with gin.
Some accounts attribute the name to an English bartender named John Collins. John Collins worked at the Limmer’s hotel in London during the 1870’s and 80’s where the gin based drink was a hugely popular serve, some contest that the name came from John Collins and was changed to Tom due to the inclusion of Old Tom gin, a slightly sweeter variety of gin popular in England at the time. Whichever story is true, the Tom Collins has definitely existed for nearly 150 years making it one of the oldest drinks in the cocktail canon.
Myths & Legends
The recipe for a Tom Collins first appears in the second edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide or How to Mix Drinks: The Bon Vivant’s Companion, 1876.
Like most cocktail’s history it can’t be said for certain who invented the Tom Collins but there is an intriguing story that goes with it. It’s possible the original Tom Collins was invented by way of a popular prank being played in the late 1800’s.
In New York, people would ask a friend or a colleague if they’d seen Tom Collins, because they’d overheard him talking badly and saying slanderous things about them. There was, of course, no Tom Collins to find as he was imaginary. After being encouraged to go and find the perpetrator at the local bar, this is where the joke would play out. Upon asking the bartender where they could find the Tom Collins who didn’t exist they’d get laughed at for being the victim of the prank. Hilarious.
Vinepair have this summary about the great Tom Collins prank:
“Presumably, some dastardly rapscallion in New York City thought it insanely clever to fool his friend one night, and he did so by creating a false slanderer. As the joke went, Prankster would ask Friend if he had heard of a Tom Collins. Upon removing his pince-nez and replying “Why, sir, no” (or however people talked back then), Prankster would stifle a (manly) giggle and reply that his friend should soon make the acquaintance of this Tom Collins, as a gentleman of that very name was said to be bandying about town from bar to bar, talking late 19th Century smack about him.”
Ingredients & Equipment
The Tom Collins is named after the gin used in the original recipe, a style of gin that has become less popular with time. Old Tom is a deliberately sweeter gin that would have suited the palate of the day more and also go a long way to cover up any roughness created by a poorly made spirit.
Today, both Hayman’s and Jensen’s make quality Old Tom style gins that have just a touch of sweetness. They’ll work perfectly in the Tom Collins and also add a bit of authenticity to the drink.
- 50ml Gin
- 25ml Lemon Juice
- 12.5ml Sugar Syrup
- Soda Top
- Lemon Wedge to Garnish
- Hawthorne Strainer
- Mexican Elbow
- High-Ball Glass
- Cubed Ice
- Take your Boston glass or small tin
- Using your jigger to measure, add the gin and sugar syrup to the shaker
- Using your Mexican elbow and a igger to measure, squeeze 25ml of lemon juice and add it to the shaker
- Fill your shaker with cubed ice and seal using your Boston tin or lid
- Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds or until your tin is very cold
- Fill your high-ball glass with cubed ice
- Using your Hawthorne strainer, strain the cocktail into the glass
- Fill to the top with soda water
- Garnish with a lemon wedge
- Serve and enjoy!
For larger groups of six or more students, we offer the option to take things private. Our classes are fully portable, and we are able to set ourselves up efficiently and professionally in a wide variety of locations and settings across the capital, the UK, and beyond. You name the location, and we’ll endeavour to make it happen.
Give one of our dedicated event organisers a call on 020 8003 7982. They’ll happily talk you through your options, and answer any questions you may have about both our mobile and in-house cocktail making classes.