John Collins


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Introduction to the John Collins Cocktail

The John Collins is a timeless classic that has quenched the thirst of cocktail lovers for generations. Its harmonious blend of bourbon, lemon, and sweetness, topped with the fizz of club soda, makes it a perennial favorite. This highball is not just a drink; it’s a piece of mixology heritage.

Originating from the 19th century, the John Collins has stood the test of time, evolving with tastes but always staying true to its refreshing core. Whether you’re a bourbon aficionado or a cocktail enthusiast, this drink’s balance of flavors is sure to delight.

Let’s dive into the world of the John Collins, exploring its rich flavors, storied history, and how to craft this beloved cocktail to perfection.

Key Facts About the John Collins

  • Alcohol Volume: Approximately 14% ABV
  • Calories: Roughly 150 kcal per serving
  • Glass Type: Traditionally served in a Collins glass
  • Garnish: Lemon wheel and Maraschino cherry

Interesting Facts about the John Collins

The John Collins is part of the Collins family, which includes various spirits as the base. The name “Collins” comes from the use of Collins glasses, which are tall and slender, perfect for highball drinks. This cocktail is often confused with its gin-based cousin, the Tom Collins, but the use of bourbon sets it distinctly apart.

John Collins Cocktail

Tasting Notes

The John Collins offers a refreshing taste with a perfect balance between the sweetness of the syrup, the tartness of the lemon, and the rich warmth of bourbon. Its effervescence makes it an ideal choice for warm weather or as a palate cleanser during a meal.

This cocktail appeals to those who appreciate the depth of bourbon but desire a lighter, more approachable drink. It’s perfect for casual gatherings, outdoor events, or simply as a relaxing end-of-day refreshment.

History of the John Collins

The John Collins has its roots in the early 1800s, named after a headwaiter at a London establishment who was known for his exceptional mixology skills. The drink gained popularity in England before making its way across the pond to America, where bourbon became the spirit of choice, giving birth to the version we know and love today.

Throughout the years, the John Collins has been celebrated in popular culture, including a mention in the famous “The Bartender’s Guide” by Jerry Thomas. Its simplicity and elegance have cemented its status as a staple in the cocktail world.

John Collins Ingredients

  • Bourbon Whiskey: 2 oz (60 ml) – Bourbon is the soul of the John Collins, providing a smooth, rich base with hints of vanilla and oak.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: 1 oz (30 ml) – Adds a bright, citrusy zing that cuts through the sweetness and refreshes the palate.
  • Simple Syrup: 1/2 oz (15 ml) – Offers a touch of sweetness to balance the tartness of the lemon juice.
  • Club Soda: To top up – Brings effervescence to the cocktail, lightening the drink and enhancing its refreshing qualities.
  • Garnish: Lemon wheel and Maraschino cherry – Adds visual appeal and a hint of fruity aroma.

Did you know? The John Collins is often associated with summer, but its versatility makes it a fantastic choice year-round.

Preparing John Collins

John Collins Method

Combining the Ingredients

Start by filling a shaker with ice. Pour in the bourbon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup. This initial step is crucial for chilling the ingredients and melding the flavors together.

Shaking to Perfection

Shake the mixture vigorously until the shaker feels cold to the touch. This not only chills the drink but also dilutes it slightly, ensuring a smooth taste.

Serving with Style

Strain the concoction into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice, then top it up with club soda. A gentle stir is all that’s needed to integrate the soda without losing its fizz.

Serving Suggestion

The John Collins is best served in a Collins glass, which is tall and narrow, allowing the carbonation to remain lively throughout the drinking experience. The glass also provides ample room for ice, keeping the drink cool.

Garnish with a lemon wheel and a Maraschino cherry. The garnish not only adds a pop of color but also contributes a subtle aroma and flavor that complements the drink.

Elevating the John Collins

  • Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality bourbon and fresh lemon juice for the best flavor profile.
  • Homemade Syrup: Craft your own simple syrup for a personal touch and control over the sweetness level.
  • Proper Technique: Shake the cocktail until the shaker is frosty to ensure optimal temperature and dilution.

John Collins Glass

Substitutions and Alternatives for the John Collins

If bourbon isn’t your spirit of choice, consider substituting it with another whiskey or even gin for a Tom Collins. For a non-alcoholic version, omit the bourbon and add more club soda or a splash of non-alcoholic spirit.

Similar cocktails include the Whiskey Sour, which shares the bourbon and lemon juice components, or the Fizz family of cocktails for those who enjoy effervescent drinks.

Add a Twist

Experiment with flavored syrups like honey or agave to add a unique twist to the classic John Collins. Infusing the simple syrup with herbs like basil or rosemary can also introduce an intriguing layer of flavor.

For a seasonal variation, muddle fresh berries or stone fruits in the shaker before adding the other ingredients. This will give the cocktail a fruity dimension that’s perfect for summer.

Preferred Liquors for the John Collins

While many bourbons can make a fine John Collins, brands like Buffalo Trace or Maker’s Mark are known for their smoothness and vanilla notes, which complement the cocktail’s profile.

For a more robust flavor, consider a bourbon with a higher rye content, which will add a spicy kick to the drink.

Similar Cocktails to the John Collins

If you enjoy the John Collins, you might also like the Mint Julep, which also features bourbon but with a refreshing minty twist. The Mojito, while rum-based, shares the John Collins’ refreshing qualities with a mint and lime flavor profile.

Another similar cocktail is the Highball, a simple yet classic combination of whiskey and ginger ale, perfect for those who prefer a sweeter, less tart drink.

Food Pairings to go with the John Collins

The John Collins pairs beautifully with light appetizers like bruschetta or shrimp cocktail. Its acidity and effervescence cut through the richness of foods, making it an excellent companion to fried or fatty dishes.

For a more adventurous pairing, try it with spicy Asian cuisine. The sweetness of the cocktail can balance the heat of the food, creating a harmonious dining experience.

John Collins FAQs

Can I make a John Collins without a shaker? Yes, you can build the drink directly in the glass, but shaking it first ensures a well-chilled and integrated cocktail.

Is it possible to batch the John Collins for a party? Absolutely, mix all ingredients except the club soda in a pitcher. When ready to serve, pour over ice and top with soda.

How can I adjust the sweetness of my John Collins? Play with the amount of simple syrup to find your perfect balance. Start with less and add more if needed.

John Collins_001

John Collins

The John Collins is a refreshing classic cocktail that belongs to the Collins family of mixed drinks. It's similar to a Tom Collins but uses bourbon whiskey instead of gin. This delightful highball is perfect for sipping on a warm day or at a casual gathering.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Cocktail
Cuisine American
Servings 1 cocktail
Calories 150 kcal


  • Shaker
  • Collins glass
  • Jigger
  • Bar spoon


  • 2 oz Bourbon whiskey
  • 1 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup
  • Club soda to top up
  • Garnish Lemon wheel and a Maraschino cherry


  • In a shaker filled with ice, combine the bourbon whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup.
  • Shake well until the outside of the shaker feels cold.
  • Strain the mixture into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice.
  • Top up with club soda.
  • Gently stir to combine.
  • Garnish with a lemon wheel and a Maraschino cherry.


To make a simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water, heat until the sugar dissolves, cool, and store in the refrigerator. Adjust the sweetness to your liking by increasing or decreasing the simple syrup.
Keyword bourbon, Classic Cocktail, Club Soda, Highball, John Collins, lemon juice, Mixed Drink, Refreshing, Simple Syrup

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