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The Best Tom Collins

The Best Tom Collins

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Be like your favorite Salinger characters and serve the Tom Collins for summer

Do you like a gin fizz? Check out the Tom Collins.

The first Tom Collins recipe hails from the 1870s. The concoction was a basic blend of simple syrup, gin, lemon, and soda water, and thankfully, the cocktail hasn’t gotten wildly more complicated since then: at its heart, the Tom Collins is an alcoholic fizzy lemonade.

We like it literary over here at The Daily Meal, so you may be inclined to recall that in J.D. Salinger’s "Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters," Buddy Glass (the eldest brother after Seymour) mixes up some of the boozy treat after his brother has left his bride at the altar. "I thought I'd make some Tom Collinses, if there are any lemons or limes. Will that be all right?" In this scene, Buddy is an inspiration to all of us: you can always choose to be a gentleman about things.

In honor of Buddy Glass, our Tom Collins is a bit out of the ordinary: the classic Collins is made with lemons alone, but ours combines the flavor with limes for a one-two citrus punch. Of course, if you’re out of either, the drink will be delicious regardless. Collinses are a notoriously easygoing bunch: the drink Tom Collins has been made with seltzer or mineral water, lemons or limes, gin or vodka or whiskey (gin is the default; you’d call these variations a “vodka Tom Collins” and a “John Collins” respectively), and once, memorably — in the trenches during World War I — with Aqua Velva, the famous aftershave. War really is hell, but any Collins in a storm, we suppose.

Click here for the Best Tom Collins Recipe

Jess Novak is the Drink Editor of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @jesstothenovak

What’s in a Tom Collins?

The first recipe for a Tom Collins was published in 1876. How’s that for a historical cocktail? Many classic drinks were created in the 1920’s, but this one is far older. The Tom Collins makes the list of the International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails (with the name John Collins), meaning that it has an “exact” definition. What’s in a Tom Collins?

  • Gin
  • Lemon juice
  • Soda water
  • Simple syrup

What’s the difference between a John Collins and a Tom Collins? The Tom Collins is made with Old Tom Gin, which is sweeter. The John Collins can be made with any type of gin. So essentially: they’re just about the same thing! The garnish on a Tom Collins is also pretty classic. You must garnish with a lemon slice and a maraschino cherry! Otherwise it’s not really a Tom Collins (is it?).

Gin and Sparkling Water

Since the gin is the foundation of this cocktail and the club soda is the finish, it is important to choose tasty, high-quality products. Regular club soda will work fine, but for a subtler sparkle with a hint of minerals, try using Perrier or San Pellegrino sparkling mineral waters. Either choice will add a bit of sophistication to an otherwise simple drink.

The original Tom Collins might have used Hollan Gin, Jenever, but London dry gin was soon the spirit of choice specifically Old Tom gin. So long as the spirit you use in your cocktails is high quality, the drink, and the drinker, will benefit from it. Nonetheless, different gins have different flavor profiles, so spend some time sampling a variety of top-shelf gins to determine your personal taste.

Here is a list of highly recommended choices:

  • Hendricks 88 proof gin: A unique bottle and light juniper, orange and coriander scents that refresh as you imbibe. A thicker mouthfeel than most gins.
  • Bombay Sapphire: A premium London dry gin that is famously aromatic and smooth.
  • Bombay, the regular version: A more reasonably priced but excellent gin.
  • Tanqueray: A good substitute when you don&apost have Tanqueray Ten
  • Tanqueray Ten: Top shelf Tanqueray that is a taste experience you must have.
  • Tanqueray Rangpur: A fine gin with a hint of lime flavor to add another flavor profile to the juniper berries. Ideal for a mixed drink like the Tom Collins.

Bombay and Tanqueray are well-known brands, and Hendricks slightly less so. There are also many independent distilleries worth trying, however. Here is a short list:

  • Distillery No. 209 Artisan Gin: Rated 90 points by the Wine Enthusiast, this excellent spirit is a complex and thoughtfully made gin which will transform your cocktail, if you dare to mix it with something.
  • Ransom Old Tom Gin: A rare amber-hued spirit made in a pot still and aged for 3𠄶 months. In this gin, the juniper and citrus are played down, while anise, caraway, coriander, and earthy notes dominate.
  • Leopold&aposs American Small Batch Gin: This is an 80 proof spirit whose makers distill each botanical element separately. The nose exudes heady juniper, floral orris root, and orange. This is an elegant gin with a hint of spice at midpalate.

Remember, the best cocktails are made with the best ingredients, so choose wisely and sample often! Your guests and your palate will thank you.

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It’s Time You Finally Learn How To Make A Perfect Tom Collins

Tom Collins. Even if you haven’t tried the drink, you’ve probably heard the name, and for good reason. It’s a classic cocktail that should have a space in everyone home bartender’s repertoire. It’s simple, it’s refreshing, and it’s made up of ingredients that you probably have on hand.

If romance novelist Joan Collins had a juice stand, this is what she’d be selling. Lemonade for grownups. Citrus, sugar, soda, and gin, served in a tall glass, beaded with condensation in the midday heat, sweating…trickling…

The Tom Collins, that’s right. Named after not Joan Collins, and not even Tom Collins, but John Collins, the headwaiter at London’s Limmer’s Hotel in the 1820s and 1830s. According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, John Collins was famed for serving a sweetened punch of gin, citrus, and chilled soda water. That he didn’t actually invent the cocktail didn’t seem to matter John was good at his job and had an effervescent personality. Affability apparently goes a long way toward winning you favor, and a beverage named in your honor. At any rate, Wondrich points out that the the honor didn’t last too long. As American drinkers started to prefer their collins being made with English Old Tom gin, the name morphed to reflect the change. John became Tom, and the Tom Collins was born.

If you’re looking for an excellent happy hour cocktail to take the edge off once you get home, you could do worse than the Tom Collins. Here to help you make the best Tom Collins you’ve ever tasted is Jim Kearns, head bartender and partner of The Happiest Hour in New York City.


Gin Base

Step 1

Combine gin, lemon juice, and sugar in a pitcher or large measuring glass and stir to dissolve sugar refrigerate gin mixture if not making drinks right away.

Step 2

Do Ahead: Gin mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.


Step 3

When ready to serve, arrange lemon wedges, mango, cucumber, mint sprigs, ginger, raspberries, and strawberries on a platter or in separate bowls and set out alongside gin mixture, club soda, and a bucket of ice.

Step 4

For each cocktail, muddle ingredients of your choice (mix and match!) in a Collins glass. Fill with ice, then add ¼ cup gin mixture and top off with club soda.

How would you rate Tom Collins Bar?

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  1. To get started add ¾ oz of Simple Syrup into your shaker. You can add up to a full ounce if you like your drinks a little sweeter.
  2. Next add ¾ oz of Lemon Juice into the shaker.
  3. Then add 1½ – 2 oz of Gin depending on how strong you’d like the cocktail.
  4. Next you’re going to add ice to both your glass and your shaker.
  5. Close the shaker tightly and shake vigorously. Shaking not only mixes the ingredients but it also adds bubbles to the cocktail and cools the mixture down so that it’s nice and cold when you pour it into your glass.
  6. Next up you want to slowly strain it into your glass.
  7. Then top off the drink with some plain soda water. If you’d like to class it up you can add some flavored sparkling water or seltzer.
  8. Garnish with a lemon and serve!

Impress your friends the next time you have a party by making this simple delicious drink!

Classic Tom Collins Recipe

The entertaining season is right around the corner so I thought it might be a good time to finally share one of my all-time favorite cocktail recipes: the Tom Collins. Made with gin, citrus juice, club soda and a little sugar, it is refreshing, effervescent and not too sweet.

I’m a huge fan of keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot so I absolutely love serving this Tom Collins cocktail in my Moscow Mule mugs. You can find them on Amazon and they will keep your drink (and your gin!) nice and cold.

I love adding a fresh herb garnish to my drink like the Thai basil leaves pictured above but mint or thyme would work too. Of course, the cocktail will be just as delicious without it so don’t worry if you don’t have any fresh herbs on hand. In fact, it would be just as tasty with a few pomegranate seeds sprinkled about.

Made with fresh lemon and lime juice and just a splash of simple syrup, each sip of this classic Tom Collins gin cocktail is better than the last. If you’re looking for another amazing cocktail try my New Orleans Hurricane Cocktail!

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