Tom Collins

A glass of Tom Collins with a lemon twist, an old photograph, and a Tom Collins pamphlet.

In 1876, “Professor” Jerry Thomas published the first-known recipe for the Tom Collins, a cocktail featuring “Old Tom,” a sweetened gin that was popular in the nineteenth century. Mixed in a tall, ice-filled glass with lemon juice, sugar, and soda water, the Tom Collins is essentially a gin-spiked sparkling lemonade perfect for hot summer afternoons.

In the early 1880s, the Tom Collins hoax swept New York, inspiring copycat pranks, tribute songs—and even a cocktail. Several newspapers, including the below account, described the hoax similarly:

“A joker meets a friend and accosts him with ‘Have you seen Tom Collins?’
‘No, who the deuce is Tom Collins?’
‘Well, I don’t know much about him, but he says he knows all about you and is telling terrible lies and scandals…'”

The joker then tells the victim to look for Tom Collins at the saloon around the corner, but in that bar and every other one he enters, he is told that Tom Collins has just left. The victim eventually realizes he has been tricked, and the hoaxer buys him drinks.

The game so captured the minds of New Yorkers that it spawned several songs like, “Tom Collins Is My Name,” with its lyrics, “I’m here, I’m there, I’m everywhere / And rather hard to find / So don’t attempt to look me up / Unless you’re well inclined.”–Erica Duecy

LC Tom Collins Note

We just realized “Tom Collins”—as in the cocktail—is an entry in Merriam-Webster. Love that.

Tom Collins

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  • (2)
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Serves 1
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

Dump the sugar and lemon juice in a Collins glass or other tall, narrow glass. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the gin, several ice cubes, and soda water and mix gently to combine.

Submerge the lemon zest in the glass so it spirals around the ice cubes. We think you know what to do from here…

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I found this Tom Collins recipe to be quite good. My only previous experiences with Tom Collins came from those bottled mixes back in my younger years. Those memories are mostly a blur, and although I found the flavor of this to be reminiscent, I'm sure that the flavor and quality is much better. The flavor comes across as slightly lemony and slightly tart and definitely refreshing. I used Bombay Sapphire for the gin, and for the first time I made my own soda water using the CO2 cartridges I've had on my shelf for years now. That was fun. The pressure point for this recipe is to avoid getting lemon juice in your eye while you're squeezing the lemon.

In my household, cocktail hour is the time of day to fill each other in on our day or maybe take a little quiet time to read or anything relaxing to sort of wind down from the busy day. Gin is one of our favorite liquors for its floral taste and classic nature. A dry martini is one of our favorites, but occasionally we're in the mood for something a bit sweeter, like a gin and tonic. I was excited to try a Tom Collins--this is one of those classic cocktails that you've heard of but were never quite certain what it was all about. It's simple in its ingredients, but to me that's the mark of a great drink. We just picked Meyer lemons from our tree outside, and the mixture of floral gin, lemon juice, and a touch of sugar is a delight. Refreshing and very tasty. The soda water gives it just the subtle bubbliness that this drink craves. I have to say, a Tom Collins will now be in my regular rotation of cocktail hour delights.

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Comments

  1. I tried this recipe with great hopes this would be my new go-to Tom Collins recipe. Unfortunately, the drink was a bit lackluster overall. I love a good Tom Collins, which seems to be hard to find, and yet when you do find it, it is the most refreshing and simple drink ever. However, this was not simple – it was just blah. We tried it with both Hendricks and Tanqueray gin and there wasn’t much of a difference.

    1. Elizabeth, I really appreciate you letting us know your thoughts. Curious if you felt it needed more booze, or more lemon, or…? I’d love to be able to help you find the perfect proportions for your palate.

  2. This sounds delicious. I recently tried a Tom Collins from Food52, which I thought was quite refreshing, so I will try yours and compare them.

    I’m not fond of Old Tom gin. Plymouth is my brand, and it is not actually a London Dry. In my opinion, it is the best, especially for G & T’s, which I occasionally drink in the summer. My two favorite cocktails are Plymouth Gin Martinis as dry as Winston Churchill liked them (a nod in the direction of France substituting for vermouth), and, especially before an Italian meal, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Negroni. It tastes delicious, whets the appetite, and is glorious to see straight up in a cocktail glass.

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