Classic: Tom Collins

The original hard lemonade, the Tom Collins is one of the few cocktails that are so classic they have a type of glassware named after them.

Photos by ADV Photography

This is the recipe for the original, so you may want to fool around a bit with the proportions to hit your favourite sweet spot. Personally, I like to up the gin and lower the syrup, but your mileage may vary. Beyond proportions, there are lots of variations on this basic recipe, so stay tuned in to see some of them in future posts.


1 ½ oz gin
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup
Club soda
Maraschino cherry
Lemon wheel

Add the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup to shaker with ice, and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled collins glass and top with club soda. Garnish with a maraschino cherry (or two) and a lemon wheel.



As with many of the classics, there’s some controversy about where this cocktail originated. The most popular story is about “The Tom Collins Hoax of 1874”. In a nutshell, you’re sitting at the bar with your friend, and you ask him, “Hey, have you seen Tom Collins?”

To which he obviously replies, “No, I don’t know a Tom Collins.”

“Well, he was at the bar around the corner talking shit about you to a bunch of people!”

And then you stupidly go off to the other bar looking for the guy.

The End.

People were clearly pretty starved for amusement in 1874.

Anyways, the recipe was first published in Jerry Thomas’ Bar-Tender’s Guide (1876), so maybe it was named after that epic hoax. The more likely story involves a London bartender named John Collins, who created the drink and then used the name Tom to refer to the Old Tom’s Gin that he preferred.

Editor’s Note: Here’s the original recipe, as published. Love the use of the word “lively” and “a large wine glass of gin’ in the instructions!

Jerry Thomas’ Tom Collins Gin (1876)

(Use large bar-glass.)
Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup.
Juice a small lemon.
1 large wine-glass of gin.
2 or 3 lumps of ice;

Shake up well and strain into a large bar-glass. Fill up the glass with plain soda water and drink while it is lively.

The end result is a delicious and refreshing drink with excellent balance. It’s so accessible, which is why it’s become a classic over the decades.

So next time you ask your friend if he’s seen Tom Collins and he replies ‘no’, don’t send him on a wild goose chase. Just hand him one of these and retain your friendship. It might not be as funny, but it’s definitely the tastier option.

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