The Tom Collins has endured over a century as one of the best gin-based cocktails.
When and where the Tom Collins was invented are varied and, frankly, really confusing. Perhaps the most amusing origin attributes the cocktail to a stupid prank that went viral in 1874 New York. Evidently, some clever trickster would ask a friend “Have you seen Tom Collins?” then proceed to say “Tom” was in a nearby bar talking trash, perhaps calling the friend a cockalorum or ninnyhammer or whatever the hell people used as insults back then. Now irate, the friend would rush to the bar asking for Tom Collins who, of course, didn’t exist. Consequently, bartenders created a drink called the Tom Collins to serve when other similarly duped ninnyhammers barged in demanding “Tom Collins.”
The Tom Collins is crisp refreshing, and slightly sweet with fragrant botanicals and bright citrus acidity.
The Tom Collins is actually one of many cocktails in the Collins family, defined as cocktails containing lemon juice, sweetener, soda water, and (usually) gin. That’s right—cocktails have families too.
- The term John Collins is used for two cocktails
- Using bourbon instead of gin (also known as a Whiskey Collins)
- Using London dry gin instead of Old Tom gin. With the ever-increasing popularity of craft cocktails, this historical distinction is growing more relevant.
- A Whiskey Collins is a Tom Collins. Some sources also refer to this as a John Collins, though this name is also given when using London dry gin. Confusing, right?
- A Vodka Collins is made with vodka instead of gin.
- Replace gin with tequila and simple syrup with agave nectar for a Juan Collins.
- Using flavored syrups, for example, syrups infused with lavender or mint, can add fun flavor twists.
The versatile Tom Collins is appropriate for pretty much any occasion.
- Hosting parties: The Tom Collins is appropriate for both casual and formal parties. Large batches (minus the soda) may be prepared ahead of time so you’re not stuck behind the bar all night.
- Warm weather/outdoor activities: Whether golfing, boating, grilling, or just sitting on the porch.
Don’t be a ninnyhammer. Always drink responsibly!
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