The Most Boring Cocktail Ever?
The Tom Collins cocktail is a fine-looking yet very ‘meh’ tasting drink. It’s basically sparkling lemonade with gin and a fancy garnish. Yawn. For some reason though, this drink was all the range in the late 19th century and was a featured recipe in Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide, the first real book on mixing drinks ever written. My own opinion is this recipe is best left as a relic of the past; it’s washed out and completely forgettable. The history and story behind the drink is far more interesting in fact than the drink itself.
History of the Tom Collins Cocktail
The Tom Collins cocktail is so old that it doesn’t really have an official history; some say it was invented in America, others say England. What does seem clear is the Tom Collins is actually a variation on a much older drink named the John Collins, which was first served at Limmer’s Old House, a bar in London, in the aristocratic Mayfair neighborhood all the way back in the 17th century. The John Collins was likely named for a popular bartender at Limmer’s and follows a gin punch formula that was common during that era with equal parts gin and lemon juice, sweetened with a bit of sugar and topped off with soda water. Whee!
The Tom Collins Hoax of 1874
Others say that the Tom Collins cocktail, despite the resemblance to the John Collins, was more likely named for a popular hoax that made the rounds in 1874. The hoax was essentially to ask someone if they ‘knew Tom Collins’, expecting that person to say ‘no’. Then, you’d say that Tom Collins was talking about that person behind their back, the snake, and was just around the corner in a bar. The patsy of this hoax would then chase off after the imaginary Tom Collins to confront the bastard, and make a fool of themselves asking after him at the bar, who would no doubt have no idea what the hell he was talking about. Ho-ho, what a knee-slapper, indeed!
Tom Collins Cocktail Review
The Tom Collins is just offensively mediocre. The Death & Co. spec hews true to the original, and while it’s not a bad drink per se, it’s a waste of quality gin, not to mention time to make it. In fact, I’d wager the John Collins has far more flavor given the increased lemon juice. For me, this is one of my five least favorite drinks in the whole book thus far.
Rating: 2 / 5
Tom Collins Cocktail (adapted from Death & Co.)
- 2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
- 1 oz Lemon Juice
- 3/4 oz Simple Syrup
- Club Soda
Short shake all the ingredients except the club soda with a few ice cubes and then strain into a highball fill with ice cubes. Top with club soda and garnish with an orange crescent and cherry flag and serve with a straw.