While we’ve made several versions of a Collins (my personal favorite recipe being with cranberries), we’ve never actually done a post on a traditional Tom Collins– the shame! This classic cocktail combines simple ingredients of gin, one ounce lemon juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, and club soda for a refreshing drink.
Tom Collins cocktail, copyright A Bar Above 2021
Tom Collins History
The Tom Collins cocktail emerged in the mid-19th century as a refreshing concoction enjoyed by Americans during the summer heat. It was first written about by the famous Jerry Thomas in 1876 and then by Harry Johnson in 1882– so you see how far back the history goes!
The origin tale is that a bartender named John Collins developed this cocktail and named it after himself– but everyone kept asking for a “Tom Collins” instead of a “John Collins” because it was often made with Old Tom gin. Whoops!
Well, sorry John Collins, but the Tom Collins version is here to stay. Whatever you call it, it’s simply delicious.
This gin drink quickly gained popularity and became a staple in cocktail culture. Over time, the original recipe evolved, but the Tom Collins retained its reputation as a timeless classic.
Tom Collins Ingredients
Not dissimilar to a gimlet– which uses lime juice instead of lemon– the Tom Collins falls into the Collins category of cocktails (base spirit, lemon, sugar, carbonated water) or a sour cocktail (spirit, acid, sweetener– similar, minus the carbonated element) and is typically served in a Collins glass (or highball glass– If you aren’t sure if you have either, any tall glass will do).
This classic gin cocktail calls for pretty basic ingredients and requires very little prep time (just make the simple syrup beforehand and store it in your fridge for up to 2-3 weeks).
To create this everyday cocktail, you will only need a few key ingredients:
- Gin: Choose a high-quality gin as the base of your Tom Collins. London Dry gin is a popular choice, with its botanical-forward flavor profile.
- Fresh Lemon Juice: Squeeze the juice from fresh lemons to infuse your Tom Collins with a citrus tang. Make sure to save a lemon wedge for the garnish!
- Simple Syrup: A mixture of equal parts sugar and water, simple syrup adds the ideal touch of sweetness to balance the drink.
- Club Soda: The effervescence of plain soda water brings the Tom Collins to life, providing a refreshing sparkle.
- Ice: Use plenty of ice cubes to ensure your Tom Collins is perfectly chilled and enjoyable.
How to Make a Tom Collins
There are only a few simple steps to creating this gin-based cocktail. Other than making the simple syrup ahead of time, it’s relatively straightforward. This is what we call a “build cocktail,” meaning you’ll skip the cocktail shaker and make it directly in the glass. Check out how Chris does it:
Tom Collins Variations
While the classic Tom Collins is a delightful treat, it’s really fun & simple to modify pretty much any of the ingredients. You can add muddled herbs or fruits, change the base spirit, infuse your sweetener, or switch out the carbonated element. You can also easily balance the sweetness, booziness, or tartness to your liking. If you watch the video, Chris has a special version for you that includes limoncello, which I’ll detail below. Here are a few other variations to consider:
- Vodka Collins: Replace the gin with vodka for a smoother, more neutral base.
- Raspberry Collins: Muddle a handful of fresh raspberries in your cocktail shaker before adding the other ingredients for a burst of fresh flavor.
- Elderflower Collins: Add a splash of elderflower liqueur to infuse this classic drink with delicate floral notes and make it an Elderflower Tom Collins. You can cut the simple syrup with this floral syrup.
- Cucumber Collins: Muddle cucumber slices in the shaker to impart an earthy, crisp twist to your drink.
- Spiced Collins: Incorporate a dash of aromatic bitters, such as Angostura or orange bitters, to add depth and complexity to the classic recipe.
Tom Collins Recipe with Limoncello & Raicilla
This is a totally different and really fun recipe using an agave-based spirit called raicilla, plus limoncello for an extra punch of lemon flavor. The directions are the same as the original Tom Collins, building the cocktail directly in the glass, topping with soda water, and stirring.
- 1.5 ounces Raicilla
- .75 ounce Limoncello
- .75 ounce Lemon Juice
- .5 ounce Simple Syrup
An Easy Tom Collins Cocktail Recipe
Light and refreshing, this is the perfect cocktail for a hot summer days or when you need a little lemon in your life. It’s kind of like grown-up lemonade!
Whether you’re lounging on a sunny patio or hosting a gathering with friends, this invigorating cocktail is sure to impress. And side note: Just look how beautiful our gold cocktail picks look in this cocktail! Enjoy!
4 PIECE CRAFT BAR SET
The best of the basics. This core kit includes the three tools you need to make most common cocktails: a trusty two-piece Boston shaker, a Hawthorne strainer with extra-tight spring and a two-sided Jigger with measurement lines all the way down to 1/4 oz!
- 2.00 ounce Dry Gin
- 1 ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
- 0.5 ounce Simple Syrup
- 3 ounce Soda Water
- 1 ea Lemon Slice for garnish
- 1 ea Maraschino Cherry or fancy cocktail cherry, for garnish
- Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup directly into your tall glass.
- Add ice cubes and top with soda water.
- Give a light stir with your bar spoon.
- Garnish with a lemon wheel and/or cocktail cherry.