Bartender pours liquor to prepare a cocktail.

DIY Cocktails: Tom Collins

Make a Classic Cocktail at Home

Are you looking for a good drink to serve at your next cocktail party? Well, we have a recipe for you! It’s the Tom Collins, a refreshing alternative to the standard gin and tonic. So, in addition to serving you the deets on how to make it, we also wanted to school you about this cocktail’s history. You’ll quickly understand why this libation has become a firm favorite! 

The Knowledge

For such a simple drink, the Tom Collins’ history is really quite murky. The most enduring story is that a waiter named John Collins at Limmer’s Old House in London hit upon a delicious drink made with soda water, lemon, sugar and Holland Gin back in the 1860s. Later Old Tom Gin was swapped in and boom, the Tom Collins was born.

Jerry 'The Professor' Thomas, the father of America Mixology, first immortalized the Tom Collins in his pioneering bible, "The Bartender's Guide, in 1862.

It quickly caught on, becoming enormously popular in drinking establishments. So popular, in fact, that it inspired a national sensation in the US: the Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. Someone would start a conversation with ‘Have you seen Tom Collins? He’s been talking about you, just around the corner in a local bar.’ The goal was to get the listener antsy enough to go look for said Mr. Collins. It spread like wildfire, with music hall songs written and newspapers getting in on the act with reported ‘sightings’ of Tom Collins. 

These days, the popular drink is likely to go down better than the practical joke. Light, refreshing and packing a surprising punch, it makes an excellent alternative to the rather parochial G&T. The Tom Collins is perfectly balanced as it stands, but you could try switching out the gin to make a Whiskey Collins, Vodka Collins or Rum Collins. Or, you could have another day in paradise by using Pisco to make a Phil Collins. No, really! This is not an episode of Punk’d and Ashton Kutcher is not standing nearby to put you on blast. Try it! It may become one of your favorite cocktails.

Four Tom Collins cocktails in a row.
Switch It Up! Replace the gin to make a Whiskey Collins, Vodka Collins or Rum Collins. 

How to Make a Tom Collins

2 parts gin
Sugar syrup
Lemon juice
Soda water

The Method
Mix the gin, sugar syrup and lemon juice in a tall (Collins) glass with cracked ice. Top up with soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel and a cherry. Simple.


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