Try a gin drink that never goes out of style, the Tom Collins, a refreshing, effervescent classic.
Long before TikTok, Tom Collins went viral. Wikipedia even has an entry for the “Tom Collins Hoax of 1874.” Apparently, people would start a conversation with the question, “Have you seen Tom Collins?” The speaker would then tell the listener that Tom Collins was talking about them and encourage them to get agitated or respond foolishly. The hoax gained enough notoriety that some newspapers printed stories about it, and music halls memorialized it in song.
So I won’t ask, “Have you seen Tom Collins?” But I will inquire whether you’ve had a Tom Collins. If the answer is no, then why not? If you like a Gimlet or enjoy a good Lemonade, you’re going to love a Tom Collins.
There’s no word on whether a Where’s Tom Collins book à la Where’s Waldo is in the works. But maybe there should be.
Which Gin Should I Use?
Because so much of a Tom Collins is gin, it’s important you use one you like. So if you have a favorite, use that. If, on the other hand, you’re coming into the delicious world of the Tom Collins completely blind (or the taste-bud equivalent), here are some tips.
Old Tom Gin: The purists among you will opt for this gin. As you can probably deduce from the name, the original Tom Collins was made with this old-timey Tom Gin, which dates back to the 19th century. It has a slightly sweeter taste than most others on this list.
London Dry Gin: I associate gins with Britain, London in particular. You’ll taste juniper, citrus, and herbs in every sip if you choose brands like Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire.
Plymouth Gin: Not feeling the juniper? Don’t worry. You might find Plymouth Gin more your style. Sweet and smooth, it makes a great Tom Collins base.
American Gin: Still with the juniper but perhaps not as strong as a London gin, U.S. varieties like Aviation (yes, Ryan Reynolds’s brand) and New Amsterdam have a wide variety of botanicals. If that’s your thing, consider gins distilled here at home.
- 2 oz gin
- 1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice about half a lemon
- 1 oz simple syrup
- Club soda to top
- A lemon wheel or cherry for garnish optional
- Place the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a Collins glass.
- Fill the glass with ice cubes.
- Stir the mix with a long spoon until the ingredients are mixed well.
- Top up the glass with club soda, and garnish with a lemon wheel or cherry.
Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Tom Collins
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a refreshing and vibrant edge you can’t get from bottled lemon juice.
- Chill your club soda before adding it to your cocktail.
- A slice of lemon is a typical garnish for this drink, but I like to add a maraschino cherry for a burst of color and sweetness.
- Adjust the amount of simple syrup to meet the demands of your taste buds. Use more for a sweeter beverage, less for a milder one. You can also adjust the ratio of the simply syrup itself.
- For a lighter texture (and a truly chilled drink), add the ingredients to a shaker and shake for around 30 seconds. This will aerate your Tom Collins.
A Collins glass, naturally. Collin glasses are tall and thin, which makes them perfect for this carbonated cocktail. As for garnish, the traditional answer is what I recommend in this recipe: a lemon wheel and/or cherry (other berries also work). Want an herb that will complement the gin? Use mint, basil, or thyme.
Although the drink’s origin story is muddled, one version recounts that the drink was named after a bartender, John Collins. The drink became Tom Collins because it used Old Tom gin.
In this particular Tom Collins, there are 213 calories, a majority coming from the gin. So shop around until you find one that doesn’t load up on calories. The simple syrup also represents some of those calories, so use stevia, erythritol or monk fruit sweetener instead if you want to cut that number down.
If you like to prep beforehand, this drink is a good option. Mix the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup and store in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, add the club soda and pour in the Collins glasses. Leftover mix will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
You can, but I wouldn’t do so right off the bat. Master the original then branch out with other flavors.
Other Gin Cocktails Worth Trying
Tom Collins Mocktail: Omit the gin and add a little more club soda or perhaps a splash of non-alcoholic gin
Classic French 75: A fizzy (almost sour) delight that mixes gin with fresh lemon juice, sugar, and Champagne. Classic AND classy.
Classic Negroni Recipe: The herbs of gin meet the herbs of Campari in this cocktail destined for a patio in the summer.
Singapore Sling Recipe: Speaking of patios and sunshine, you may also want to try a Sling. Gin, Cointreau, and various fruit flavors make this is tropical hit.
Classic Aviation Drink Recipe: Gin, maraschino liqueur, and, most importantly, creme de violette, which gives it such a beautiful color.