By Sierra Lawson
The recipe has many members in its extended family
The fame of the drink soared because of a joke
Many songs, poems, and hoaxes were inspired by the Tom Collins
Some cocktails were made for summertime sipping, and one of those cocktails is the one and only Tom Collins.
I don’t know about you, friends, but I’m dreaming of summertime when the living is easy.
I can feel it now, me lying under the shade of a Spanish moss-covered oak tree, with a cool, crisp, and classic beverage in hand.
Think of homemade, freshly squeezed lemonade with a nice dollop of Gin and a crisp pop of seltzer.
Surely, you’ve heard of him, but if not, allow me to introduce you.
It is said that the libation we’re exploring today was born in ol’ London in the late 19th century.
John Collins, a bartender in London, claims to have mixed and sold it to great acclaim, even calling it a John Collins.
However, one of the earliest recorded recipes of the drink appeared in Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual or How to Mix Drinks of the Present Style, published in 1882.
In Johnson’s book, the recipe is called a Tom Collins.
Cocktail historians believe that this is because Old Tom Gin was listed as the base Gin, and the moniker just seemed to stick.
Old Tom gin was the go-to Gin in 18-19th century London but has had a resurgence in popularity over recent years.
Combat-tested bartenders will insist that a Tom Collins is only authentic if used with Old Tom Gin, as the brand has a slightly sweeter taste than a typical dry Gin.
This is vital in keeping the light, crisp, and refreshing consistency integral to the recipe. A London Dry Gin is accepted as a close second if you simply MUST.
However, like all true classics, everybody wants to take the credit.
But there was one event that took place that would make sure that Tom Collins would be here to stay for YEARS to come.
The Tom Collins Hoax
The year is 1874, and you’re strolling around the beloved streets of New York, bathed in moonlight.
Suddenly, a friend of a friend taps your shoulder with the utmost urgency.
Have you seen Tom Collins? he says.
Well, if you did, you wouldn’t know.
Who is Tom Collins? You reply.
A scoundrel by that name is down at Paddy the Pigs. He says you owe him money, and you are a liar and a cheat.
That filthy, scandalous, nimenog! You cry.
None of those rumors are true. I’ll find this Tom Collins, and I’ll show him what for!
You stomp your shiny shoes all the way to Paddy the Pigs. You push open the door to the crowded bar and stomp over to the barkeep.
Point me to Tom Collins immediately! I have a bone to pick. You demand. You slam a small fist on the counter to show you mean business.
The bar room grows quiet as they wait with anxious anticipation.
The barkeep nods his head knowingly, hiding a smile. He grabs a Collins glass, squeezes lemon juice, adds Gin, water, and sugar. He gives it a stir. He adds shaved ice and tops the glass with soda. He tops the emulsion with seasonal fruit and slides it towards your small fist.
What is this?! You shout with confusion.
This, friend, is Tom Collins. I think he’s just the fellow you’d like to meet. says the barkeep.
The crowded bar erupts in laughter and claps your shoulder, and shakes your hand.
You have just walked right into The Tom Hollins Coax.
This joke was taking place all over the U.S, fooling people for years. Even local newspapers were having their fun by reporting ‘sightings’ of Tom Collins.
Some cocktail historians believe that the drink’s creation stemmed from the hoax, but naturally, nothing is confirmed.
It was a hoax that played out all in good fun back in the day, but I’m not too sure if that marketing technique would go over too well in this day and age.
It might make for a good Tik Tok, though!
For those curious, there are quite a few hoaxes of this magnitude that have taken place over the years. I’m talking about from the Amityville Horror Hoax to Project Alpha.
(Explore further if you dare. A deep and dark rabbit hole awaits you.)
Shake it Up
Like many classic originals, there are quite a few remixes on making the Tom Collins.
There is the Summer Collins which is simply equal parts gin and lemonade. We also have a Juan Collins, which uses tequila instead of Gin as the base alcohol.
There’s even a libation called the South Side, which uses limeade instead of lemonade, and adds mint as a garnish.
The Gin Fix, Gin Fizz, and French 75 are also cousins of Tom Collins. They are very similar but have key differences.
A Gin Fizz has all of the ingredients of a Tom Collins but is served classically in a smaller glass with no ice and includes an egg white.
A Gin Fix has all the ingredients of a Tom Collins but does not include soda/seltzer.
The French 75 is simply Gin, lemon juice, sugar, and champagne.
The more you know, right? No matter which cousin you prefer, it’s bound to be a good time with anyone in the Tom collins family.
An Ode to Sir Tom
The fame of the emulsion was the inspiration for many poems, letters, and songs. One of the most popular, written by Andrew Barton Paterson, goes a little something like,
Who never drinks and never bets,
But loves his wife and pays his debts
And feels content with what he gets?
Who has the utmost confidence
That all the banks now in suspense
Will meet their paper three years hence?
Who reads the Herald leaders through,
And takes the Evening News for true,
And though the Echo’s jokes were new?
Who is the patriot renowned
So very opportunely found
To fork up Dibbs’s thousand pound?
Talk about a declaration of adoration!
if you need something quick, fresh, and classic, look no further than Tom Collins. But don’t say his name too loud out in public! Rumors of the renown surrounding Sir Tom Collins will continue to spread for years to come, and as far as we’re concerned, all the rumors are true!
2 ounces gin
1-ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Optional garnish: lemon wheel/maraschino cherry
Combine lemon juice, simple syrup, and Gin in a Collins glass
Fill the same glass with ice, and stir. Top with club soda
If you so choose, garnish with a lemon wheel or cherry