After nearly a decade of “forcing” spirit-based cocktails into the hands of our trepidatious wine and beer drinking friends, we’ve found that the Tom Collins is the one gin cocktail that pretty much everyone loves.  It’s light and refreshing – like homemade sparkling lemonade with a kick.

The origin of this tasty tipple is greatly disputed and very lively.  Wikipedia has a wealth of background including the infamous Tom Collins Hoax of 1874 here…

A Great Party Drink…

Since it is almost universally popular, this is a great drink for when you’re hosting a party.  We pre-make a big batch of the lemon, simple and gin mixture then build individual drinks in the glass – topping with soda as needed.  If we also mix up a pitcher of Manhattans for the brown spirit fans in the crowd, we often find that the wine and beer barely get touched.

Infinite Variety…

This recipe calls for Old Tom Gin, a slightly sweetened version of the classic London Dry gin which was very popular in England at the end of the 19th century and which has been very hard to come by until just recently.  It is the traditional spirit used in this classic cocktail, to which it lends its name.  However, if you’re not stocking a bottle of Old Tom, it’s still a very respectable libation with Tanqueray, Bombay or whatever London Dry, or even New World-style, gin you happen to have in your liquor cabinet.

If you like your cocktails on the sweeter side,  add a bit of grenadine or some of the maraschino cherry juice from the cherry jar.  At the Proper, we call this a Mary Collins, after the owner’s wife who likes her spirits “undetectable” and her cocktails pink.

And, if you really can’t tolerate gin at all, you can swap out the gin with virtually any other spirit for a tasty variation with a cute new name.  Just some of the popular alternatives…

  • Bourbon or Rye = John Collins
  • Vodka = Ivan Collins, Comrade Collins (Or simply Vodka Collins)
  • Irish Whiskey = Michael Collins (After the Irish revolutionary leader)
  • Tequila – Juan Collins or José Collins
  • Rum= Ron Collins (After the Spanish word for rum)
  • Scotch – Jock Collins or Sandy Collins
  • AppleJack = Jack Collins
  • Gin + Sloe Gin = Barnabas Collins (After the character in Dark Shadows)
  • Brandy = Brandy Collins

There are actually quite a few more but they get sillier and significantly less appealing.

TOM COLLINS
(1874 – NY & PA)

  • ¾ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ¾ oz. Simple Syrup (recipe here)
  • 2 oz. Old Tom Gin*

1. Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and give it a quick shake.

2. Add 2 oz. club soda then strain into Collins (that’s the tall skinny one) over the biggest ice you can find.

3. Garnish with a lemon wedge (and a cherry if you like).

* Old Tom is a slightly sweetened version of the classic London Dry gin which was very popular in England at the end of the 19th century.  It is the traditional spirit used in this classic cocktail, to which it lends its name.  However, if you’re not stocking a bottle of Old Tom, it’s still a very respectable libation with whatever London Dry or even New World-style gin you happen to have in your liquor cabinet.

NOTE:  There is some debate about the Proper way to build this drink.  Behind the stick at the Proper, John Peet believes it needs to be shaken with ice (as this recipe dictates) to get it cold enough.  Angel, however,  believes that shaking over-dilutes the drink and he prefers to build it in the glass.  WE believe that unless you have John or Angel doing the work, it’s a lot less trouble to build it directly in the glass and then stir it to mix.  And if you have several that way, their debate soon becomes moot.