Turn over a thirst-quenching new leaf and try a Tom Collins, a classic gin cocktail that’s as bubbly and refreshing as a glass of sparkling lemonade. The real thing is easy to make and even easier to drink; it just might become your new usual.
It’s impossible not to love a Tom Collins. That’s because it’s everything you hope for in a cocktail, all wrapped into one beautiful package. First of all, it’s completely refreshing. A good Tom Collins is made from scratch with gin, real lemons, and a splash of soda water.
Secondly, it goes down easy. (If you’re not careful, almost too easy.) This drink isn’t the kind of cocktail that is sipped over the course of a couple hours, in front of a fireplace, while listening to classical music. Nope! This cool crisp gin cocktail is meant to be celebrated, even if that celebration is finishing mowing the backyard. Perfect for parties, people, and dancing…maybe even New Year’s eve.
And finally, a Tom Collins is just plain gorgeous. Ideally it’s served in a Collins glass, a tall, slender vessel to hold all that ice. It’s almost like a champagne flute without a stem, and every bit as festive.
Making Tom Collins for a crowd, or just for two? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Is Tom Collins a person?
Yes and no. The world will never know how many actual Tom Collins’ exist today because so many internet searches for the Tom Collins drink make finding this out next to impossible.
If Tom Collins the person really exists, well then, he might be part of one of the largest hoaxes in history, dating from the 1800s. Keep reading!
Tom Collins cocktail history:
Supposedly, John Collins, a Londoner, was the inventor of the original gin-based cocktail around 1860. But a few years later, in New York, there was a popular gag people would play on others in bars, involving a fictional character named (you guessed it) Tom Collins.
To play, all you had to do was start a conversation with someone seated at the bar next to you. Once you found out their name, you’d say something like “Hey, I was at the bar down the street before this, and a man named Tom Collins was talking about you. What he said wasn’t very good—in fact, it was really bad!”
Once you had convinced this poor person that someone was trying to ruin their reputation, they’d go off in search of this fictional Tom Collins. Hilarious, right? Of course, this was over a hundred years before social media existed. But believe it or not, it was quite a fad in 1874.
To honor the hoax, an American bartender, Jerry Thomas, changed the name from John Collins to Tom Collins in his drink recipe book. At the time, Old Tom gin was the usual ingredient, which made it all the more fitting.
Now you know!
Tom Collins Ingredients:
Here's what's in a classic Tom Collins cocktail.
- Lemon Juice. Freshly squeezed, please.
- Simple syrup. Learn about how to make simple syrup, or follow the easy instructions below.
- Ice. More than you think you need.
- Club soda. Just a splash.
- Lemon wheel and maraschino cherry. A classic Tom Collins garnish.
To make Tom Collins mix from scratch:
For parties, make a big pitcher of freshly squeezed lemons and simple syrup. Some people add a few limes into the lemons, but that's up to you.
You can mix this sour mix with the gin and top off with soda as you make the cocktails.
Tom Collins glassware:
Traditionally, a Collins glass is a tall, thin, straight-sided 12-ounce glass. But when you're thirsty, you're thirsty!
How to make a Tom Collins cocktail:
You’ll never buy Tom Collins Mix again—it’s basically acid-yellow, lemon-flavored sugar water—once you make your own from scratch.
By the way, this recipe looks absolutely stunning with a pre-chilled glass. Simply run a glass under cold water and freeze it until you’re ready to serve. Cheers!
- To make one cocktail, combine 2 ounces of gin with 3/4 ounces of lemon juice and 1/2 ounce of simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
- Then fill the shaker with ice, close, and shake vigorously.
- If you’ve pre-chilled some tall glasses, take one out of the refrigerator and fill it with fresh ice.
- Then strain the cocktail into the glass. Top with 2 ounces of club soda and garnish with a lemon and a cherry, if you have it.
How to make simple syrup:
Simple syrup is just that—simple—to make and sweetens cold drinks perfectly.
- To make simple syrup, combine equal parts granulated sugar and water (ie, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water) in a small saucepan.
- Cook gently over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool completely.
- Use the syrup within a couple days for store in the refrigerator. Basic simple syrup lasts for 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.
Other Tom Collins spin-offs:
This classic cocktail is hugely famous; because it's so simple, it's easy to riff into other cocktail recipes.
- Vodka Collins. A cocktail made with vodka instead of gin.
- Gin and tonic. Aka G&T, is gin and tonic water with a lime, over ice. Just as refreshing, but a different animal and not considered a "sour."
- Tom Collins with grenadine. Lately, some bartenders sweeten the drink even more with some extra maraschino cherry juice, or grenadine. You can float a little grenadine over the cocktail if you like your drink a little sweeter.
- Tom Collins with rum. It's a Rum Collins! It can be crafted with lemon or lime juice, your pick.
- Gin Fizz vs Tom Collins. Both cocktails are made with similar ingredients, but a Gin Fizz is smaller, may not have ice, and depending on the recipe, may be made with egg white for a velvety consistency.
- Tom Collins vs John Collins. Not to confuse you, but it seems that the original name for the Tom Collins has been co-opted by bourbon. That probably sounds a little better than "Bourbon Collins."
Tom Collins Recipe
- 2 ounces gin (1/4 cup)
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup (1 tablespoon, see notes)
- Ice as needed
- 2 ounces club soda (1/4 cup) or more if desired
- 1 lemon wheel for garnish, optional
- 1 maraschino cherry for garnish, optional
- Chill glassware if desired: Coat the outside of a glass with water and freeze until serving time. Or, freeze dry glassware for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
- Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.
- Fill chilled glass with ice, then strain cocktail into glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a skewered lemon wheel and maraschino cherry, if desired.