Tom Collins

Some say that the Tom Collins was named after "Old Tom" Gin which is a sweetened gin used rarely today. Most older recipes call for "Old Tom". One 1912 recipe book lists a Tom Collins also with Dry Gin and Whiskey made the same way. It also has a recipe for one with Brandy in which calls for the addition of a dash or two of Maraschino.

There are also accounts that it was named after the creator of the drink. England, Australia, and America have all laid claim. Here is an interesting tidbit from a viewer of Cocktails.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Kevin Harrison's conversation with Vincent Collins

"I met an elderly gentleman last night at a dinner party. His last name was Collins. He told me a very charming story about his grandfather who was born in 1850 and at the age of 23, worked in the garment district of NYC. To supliment his income he took a second job bartending at a tavern across the street from where he worked during the day. A place called the Whitehouse. His friends wanting something with less of a bite than strait whiskey asked him to make them something quenching. There he started pouring a "thirst quencher" made with gin that he had concocted. What started out as a gin & tonic evolved into a drink with lemon juice. His name was Tom Collins, supposedly this was where the Tom Collins drink originated."

Another American account puts it in the early 19th century from an Irish immigrant, Tom Collins, one of eight children. He worked as a bartender in the New Jersey and New York area, and to beat the heat, made this drink for himself to sip without "getting tight". Friends wanted to try it, liked it, and it became his signature drink. Here is his original recipe.

1 level tsp. powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 drops of oil of orange
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 oz. dry Gin
Soda water
Mix sugar, lemon juice and oil of orange in a tall water glass. Add lime jice and gin, stir well. Put in two medium lumps of ice, and fill to the top with soda water. Stir just a bit and serve.

The most popular English account tells of the Head Waiter from a hotel bar called Limmer's in England being the inventor late in the 19th century. Unfortunately, I don't know the story.

Most every old recipe calls for sugar, fresh lime or lemon juice, or both, "Old Tom" gin, and soda. The older recipes for a John Collins, call for a dry Gin or Bourbon. It is interesting to note that I found an old recipe for an Irish Collins which is just as the drink above, only it substitutes Irish Whiskey for the Gin.

So popular is this refreshing cocktail, that it has a glass named after it. There is also a mix. The Collins mix is nothing more than a glorified sour mix, but it is handy if you don't want to squeeze your own fresh juices to mix with sugar. You still will need to top off your drink after shaking with soda for the best tasting collins. 

Today, the Tom Collins will get you regular bar dry gin, while the John Collins is made with Whiskey. We also have Rum Collins and Vodka Collins. They are made the same way as a Tom Collins. It is now common practice to garnish a Collins with a flag, which is just an orange slice skewered with a maraschino cherry.