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Welcome to the world of the Classic Tom Collins, a cocktail that stands the test of time with its refreshing zest and sparkling charm. This highball drink is a symphony of gin, lemon, and sweetness, topped with a fizz that dances on the palate. It’s a concoction that has quenched the thirst of many and continues to be a favorite in bars worldwide.

The Tom Collins offers a perfect blend of citrus and sweet flavors, making it an ideal choice for those warm summer evenings or as a palate cleanser before dinner. Its history is as rich as its taste, with origins that trace back to the 19th century. Let’s dive into the effervescent world of this beloved classic.

Whether you’re a seasoned bartender or a cocktail enthusiast, the Tom Collins is a must-know recipe. It’s simple yet sophisticated, and with a few tips and tricks, you can elevate this drink from good to great. So, grab your shaker and let’s get mixing!

Key Facts About the Collins

  • Alcohol Volume: Approximately 14% ABV (28 proof)
  • Calories: Approximately 200 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: Approximately 16 g
  • Glass Type: Traditionally served in a Collins glass
  • Garnish: Lemon wheel and maraschino cherry

Interesting Facts about the Collins

The Tom Collins has a playful history, with a hoax in 1874 leading people to look for a man named Tom Collins who was supposedly speaking ill of them. This led to the naming of the cocktail. The drink is also part of the Collins family, which includes variations made with different spirits. Lastly, it’s believed that the Tom Collins was one of the first cocktails to be written down in bartender guides, securing its place in mixology history.

Classic Tom Collins Cocktail

Tasting Notes

The Tom Collins is a refreshing mix of bright lemony tartness balanced by the sweetness of simple syrup, with a robust base of gin. The effervescence of club soda adds a lively sparkle that makes the drink particularly thirst-quenching. It’s a cocktail that appeals to those who enjoy a balance of sweet and sour, with a spirited kick.

This cocktail is versatile, suitable for a casual backyard BBQ, an elegant dinner party, or simply as a revitalizing after-work drink. Its simplicity and refreshing nature make it a hit across various occasions and seasons, though it’s particularly favored during the warmer months.

History of the Collins

The Tom Collins has a storied past, with its roots often traced back to the 1800s. It’s named after the Tom Collins hoax of 1874, where a practical joke led people on a wild goose chase for a non-existent man. This notoriety helped cement the cocktail’s name in popular culture.

Originally made with Old Tom Gin, a sweeter style of gin popular in the 19th century, the Tom Collins has evolved over time. The recipe was first recorded in writing by Jerry Thomas, “the father of American mixology,” in his 1876 bartending guide. Since then, it has become a staple in the cocktail world, with many variations emerging over the years.

The drink’s simplicity and refreshing taste have contributed to its enduring popularity. It’s a cocktail that has witnessed the ebb and flow of drinking trends, yet remains a timeless choice for cocktail aficionados and novices alike.

Collins Ingredients

  • Gin – 2 oz (60 ml): The spirit base of the cocktail, providing a botanical kick.
  • Fresh lemon juice – 1 oz (30 ml): Adds a fresh, citrusy tartness that is essential to the drink’s profile.
  • Simple syrup – 1/2 oz (15 ml): Offers a touch of sweetness to balance the lemon’s acidity.
  • Club soda – 2 oz (60 ml): Gives the cocktail its characteristic fizz and lightness.
  • Ice cubes: Chills the drink, making it more refreshing.
  • Lemon wheel – for garnish: Enhances the visual appeal and adds a hint of lemon aroma.
  • Maraschino cherry – for garnish: Provides a touch of color and a sweet finish.

Did you know?

“The Tom Collins is often considered the ‘lemonade of cocktails,’ making it a hit at summer parties and a go-to for those seeking a refreshing alcoholic beverage.”

Ingredients for Tom Collins Cocktail

Collins Method


Start by filling a Collins glass with ice cubes to chill the glass. In a shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake the mixture vigorously to blend the ingredients and chill the mixture.


Strain the shaken mixture into the prepared Collins glass over the ice. This ensures a smooth texture without any unwanted pulp or ice shards.

Finishing Touches

Top up the glass with club soda to add the effervescence that defines the Tom Collins. Gently stir to combine the ingredients, allowing the flavors to meld together. Finally, garnish with a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry to complete the presentation.

Serving Suggestion

The Tom Collins is traditionally served in a Collins glass, which is tall and narrow, allowing the carbonation to remain intact for longer. The glass also provides ample room for ice, keeping the drink cool.

Garnishes play a crucial role in the cocktail’s presentation and aroma. A thinly sliced lemon wheel adds a pop of color and a fragrant citrus scent, while the maraschino cherry offers a sweet counterpoint to the drink’s tartness.

Elevating the Collins

  • Use High-Quality Gin: Opt for a premium gin to enhance the botanical notes in the cocktail.
  • Homemade Simple Syrup: Create your own simple syrup for a fresher, more natural sweetness.
  • Chilled Glassware: Pre-chill the Collins glass to keep the drink colder for longer.
  • Artisanal Club Soda: Select a high-quality club soda with fine bubbles for a smoother texture.
  • Proper Ice: Use large, clear ice cubes that melt slowly, preventing dilution.

These professional tips will elevate your Tom Collins from a simple mixed drink to a craft cocktail experience.

Elevated Tom Collins Cocktail

Substitutions and Alternatives for the Collins

If you’re missing an ingredient or want to experiment, there are several substitutions you can make. For example, if you don’t have gin, try using vodka for a milder taste. If simple syrup is not available, a teaspoon of sugar can work in a pinch.

Similar cocktails that share the Collins’ refreshing character include the John Collins (made with bourbon) and the Vodka Collins. These variations offer a twist on the classic while maintaining its essence.

Add a twist

For a modern take on the Tom Collins, consider infusing your simple syrup with herbs like basil or rosemary. Another twist is to add a splash of elderflower liqueur for a floral note. Or, for a tart edge, muddle in some fresh berries before shaking.

These variations can add depth and complexity to the cocktail, making it even more enjoyable.

Preferred Liquors for the Collins

While the Tom Collins is versatile, certain gins enhance the drink’s profile. London Dry gins, such as Tanqueray or Beefeater, are classic choices that provide a crisp, juniper-forward flavor. For a more contemporary twist, gins like Hendrick’s, with its cucumber and rose notes, can add a unique dimension to the cocktail.

Choosing the right gin can transform your Tom Collins into a personalized cocktail experience.

Similar Cocktails to the Collins

If you enjoy the Tom Collins, you might also like the Gin Fizz, which is similar but with a frothy top, or the Mojito, which offers a minty freshness. The Whiskey Sour shares the Collins’ balance of sweet and sour but with a whiskey base.

These cocktails provide a similar refreshing experience with their own distinctive twists.

Food Pairings to go with the Collins

The Tom Collins pairs well with light appetizers like bruschetta or ceviche. Its acidity cuts through the richness of foods like smoked salmon or creamy cheeses. For a more adventurous pairing, try it with spicy Asian dishes to complement the heat.

The cocktail’s versatility makes it an excellent match for a wide range of flavors and cuisines.

Collins FAQs

Can I make a Tom Collins without a shaker? Yes, you can build the drink directly in the glass and stir, though shaking helps to better integrate the flavors.

Is it possible to make a non-alcoholic version? Absolutely, simply omit the gin and you have a refreshing lemon soda.

How can I make my Tom Collins less sweet? Reduce the amount of simple syrup or increase the lemon juice for a tarter drink.

What’s the best way to garnish a Tom Collins? A classic garnish is a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry, but feel free to get creative with other citrus or herbs.

Can I use bottled lemon juice? Fresh lemon juice is preferred for the best flavor, but bottled can be used in a pinch.


Classic Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is a refreshing and timeless cocktail that dates back to the 19th century. It's a perfect balance of citrus and sweet, with a sparkle that makes it ideal for warm weather sipping or as an invigorating aperitif.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Cocktail
Cuisine American
Servings 1 drink
Calories 200 kcal


  • Collins glass
  • Shaker
  • Strainer
  • Stirrer


  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup
  • 2 oz Club soda
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon wheel for garnish
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish


  • Fill a Collins glass with ice cubes.
  • In a shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake well.
  • Strain the mixture into the prepared Collins glass over the ice.
  • Top up the glass with club soda.
  • Gently stir to combine.
  • Garnish with a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry.


For a twist, try using different types of gin or adding a dash of bitters to the cocktail for extra complexity.
Keyword Bartender, Citrus, Classic Cocktail, Club Soda, Gin, Highball, lemon juice, mixology, Refreshing, Simple Syrup, Sparkling, Summer Drink, Tom Collins

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