|Primary alcohol by volume|
|Served||On the rocks; poured over ice|
|Standard drinkware||Collins glass|
|Commonly used ingredients|
|Preparation||Mix the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup in a tall glass with ice, top up with soda water, garnish and serve.|
The Tom Collins is a Collins cocktail made from gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. First memorialized in writing in 1876 by Jerry Thomas, "the father of American mixology", this "gin and sparkling lemonade" drink is typically served in a Collins glass over ice.
In August 1891, British physician Sir Morell Mackenzie wrote an article in the 19th century influential magazine Fortnightly Review claiming that England was the originating country for the Tom Collins cocktail and a person named John Collins was its creator. In the article, Mackenzie quoted an old song, the title of which he indicated to be "John Collins." However, the British weekly magazine Punch immediately disparaged Mackenzie's efforts, noting in August 1891 that the title of the song actually was "Jim Collins" and that Mackenzie otherwise inaccurately quoted and characterized the song.
However, it should be noted that a drink called a John Collins did exist prior to the Tom Collins hoax of 1874. A recipe for it appears in the Steward and Barkeeper's Manual of 1869. Cocktail historian David Wondrich has noted that there are several other earlier mentions of this version of the drink and that it does bear a striking resemblance to the gin punches served at London clubs like the Garrick in the first half of the 19th century. Wondrich concludes from this that the story of the late eighteenth century origin of the Collins at Limmer's Old House in London was in fact likely to be accurate, as Mackenzie had asserted.
Confusion over the cocktail's origins continued as American writer Charles Montgomery Skinner noted in 1898 that the Tom Collins had made its way to the "American Bars" in England, France, and Germany, where the American invention stimulated curiosity in Europe and served as a reflection of American art.
As time passed, interest in the Tom Collins diminished and its origins became lost. Early on during the 1920s Prohibition in the United States, the American journalist and student of American English H. L. Mencken noted:
The origin of the ... Tom-Collins ... remains to be established; the historians of alcoholism, like the philologists, have neglected them. But the essentially American character of [this and other drinks] is obvious, despite the fact that a number have gone over into English. The English, in naming their drinks, commonly display a far more limited imagination. Seeking a name, for example, for a mixture of whiskey and soda- water, the best they could achieve was whiskey-and-soda. The Americans, introduced to the same drink, at once gave it the far more original name of high-ball.
Most people attribute Tom Collins to the Irish political activist who died in 1798 during the Irish Rebellion, although he was not well known. However, a drink known as a John Collins has existed since the 1860s at the very least and is believed to have originated with a headwaiter of that name who worked at Limmer's Old House in Conduit Street in Mayfair, which was a popular London hotel and coffee house around 1790–1817.
The following rhyme was written by Frank and Charles Sheridan about John Collins:
My name is John Collins, head waiter at Limmer's,
Corner of Conduit Street, Hanover Square,
My chief occupation is filling brimmers
For all the young gentlemen frequenters there.
A recipe for a John Collins is featured in the Steward and Barkeeper's Manual of 1869:
Teaspoonful of powdered sugar
The juice of half a lemon
A wine glass of Old Tom Gin
A bottle of plain soda
Shake up, or stir up with ice. Add a slice of lemon peel to finish.
Drinks historian David Wondrich has speculated that the original recipe that was introduced to New York in the 1850s would have been very similar to the gin punches that are known to have been served at fashionable London clubs such as the Garrick during the first half of the 19th century. He states that these would have been along the lines of "gin, lemon juice, chilled soda water, and maraschino liqueur".
The specific call for Old Tom gin in the 1869 recipe is a likely cause for the subsequent name change to "Tom Collins" in Jerry Thomas's 1876 recipe. Earlier versions of the gin punch are likely to have used Hollands instead.
Some confusion regarding the origin of the drink and the cause for its change of name has arisen in the past due to the following:
The Tom Collins Hoax of 1874
In 1874, people in New York, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the United States would start a conversation with "Have you seen Tom Collins?" After the listener predictably reacts by explaining that they did not know a Tom Collins, the speaker would assert that Tom Collins was talking about the listener to others and that Tom Collins was "just around the corner", "in a [local] bar," or somewhere else near. The conversation about the nonexistent Tom Collins was a proven hoax of exposure. In The Great Tom Collins hoax of 1874, as it became known, the speaker would encourage the listener to act foolishly by reacting to patent nonsense that the hoaxer deliberately presents as reality. In particular, the speaker desired the listener to become agitated at the idea of someone talking about them to others such that the listener would rush off to find the purportedly nearby Tom Collins. Similar to The New York Zoo hoax of 1874, several newspapers propagated the very successful practical joke by printing stories containing false sightings of Tom Collins. The 1874 hoax quickly gained such notoriety that several 1874 music hall songs memorialized the event (copies of which now are in the U.S. Library of Congress).
The first Tom Collins recipe
The recipe for the Tom Collins first appeared in the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas' Bar-Tender's Guide. Since New York based Thomas would have known about the widespread hoax and the contents of the 1876 published book were developed during or right after The Great Tom Collins hoax of 1874, it was believed by George Sinclair that the hoax event was the most plausible source of the name for the Tom Collins cocktail. Classified under the heading "Collins" with similarly named whisky and brandy drinks, Jerry Thomas' Tom Collins Gin instructed:
This was distinguished from the Gin Fizz cocktail in that the 3 dashes of lemon juice in the Gin Fizz was "fizzed" with carbonated water to essentially form a "Gin and Sodawater" whereas the considerably more "juice of a small lemon" in the Tom Collins essentially formed a "Gin and Sparkling Lemonade" when sweetened with the gum syrup. The type of gin used by Thomas was not specified in his 1876 book, but was most likely Old Tom if that was responsible for the change in the drink's name. If, alternatively, the change in name was caused by the popularity of the Tom Collins Hoax of 1874 then it is more probable that Holland gin rather than English London Dry Gin was intended since Jerry Thomas' Gin Fizz (1862) called for Holland gin and Hollands Gin (Jenever) was imported into the United States at that time at a ratio of approximately 6 liters to every liter of English London Dry Gin.
By 1878, the Tom Collins was being served in the bar rooms of New York City and elsewhere. Identified as 'a favorite drink in demand everywhere' in the 1878 edition of The Modern Bartender's Guide by O. H. Byron, both Tom Collins gin and whiskey and Tom Collins brandy were considered fancy drinks. In 1891, the emulsifying sweetener, gum syrup, was replaced in the recipe by sugar and the use of Old Tom gin, a lightly sweetened Gin popular in 18th-century England. In the 1891 book, The Flowing Bowl: When and what to Drink, author William Schmidt listed the Tom Collins as including:
One turn of the 20th century recipe subsequently replaced the lemon juice with lime juice.
An alternate history places the origin in St. Louis.
The 1986 The Book of Cocktails provides a modern take on Thomas' 1876 recipe for this long drink:
John (or Tom) Collins (1986)
2 oz. dry gin
2 oz. lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar (gomme) syrup
slice of lemon
1 colored cherry
Place ample ice in large glass. Add gin, lemon juice and syrup. Top up with soda water and stir well. Serve with lemon slice, cherry and a straw.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tom Collins.|
- Lemon, Mark (8 August 1891). "An 'umble corrections". Punch (magazine). 101: 70. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- DeGroff, D. (2010). The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. ISBN 9780307762450. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
- Regan, Gaz. "gaz's Cocktail Book". John Collins and Tom Collins: A Discussion.
- Skinner, Charles Montgomery (1899). Myths and Legends Beyond Our Borders. J. B. Lippincott & Co. pp. 247–248. ISBN 1-4179-8029-X. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Mencken, Henry Louis (1921). The American Language: An Inquiry Into the Development of English in the United States. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 99. ISBN 0-394-73315-0. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Regan, Gaz. "The Tom Collins and the John Collins: However this has been refuted by many in Ireland who claim the drink was developed in one of the first Irish pubs in New York est 1860 and named after the revolutionary Tom Collins. A Discussion". gaz's Cocktail Book.
- Calabrese, Salvatore (1997). Classic Cocktails. London: Prion. p. 166. ISBN 1-85375-240-1.
- "Difference between Collinses & Fizzes". SecondGoldenAge.com. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- Sinclair, George (26 March 2007). "The Great Tom Collins Hoax". Scribd. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Walsh, William S. (1892). Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities. p. 450. ISBN 0-7426-4152-X. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- For the 1874 sheet music about the Tom Collins hoax, see Library of Congress.
- Difford, Simon (2008). Cocktails: Over 2250 Cocktails. diffordsguide. p. 351. ISBN 0-9556276-0-5. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Thomas, Jerry (1887). Jerry Thomas' Bar-Tender's Guide or How to Mix Drinks. Dick and Fitzgerald. p. 36. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- "Ardent Spirits Bartender Bulletin". ardentspirits.com. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
- Croly, Jane Cunningham (1878). Jennie June's American Cookery Book, Containing Upwards of Twelve Hundred Choice and Carefully Tested Receipts. Excelsior Publishing House. p. 400. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Schmidt, William (1891). The Flowing Bowl: When and What to Drink: Full Instructions how to Prepare, Mix, and Serve Beverages. C.L. Webster. p. 179. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Wiley, Harvey Washington (1919). Beverages and Their Adulteration: Origin, Composition, Manufacture, Natural, Artificial, Fermented, Distilled, Alkaloidal and Fruit Juices. P. Blakiston's Son. p. 394. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Lossos, David. "Early St. Louis Hotels". Genealogy in St. Louis. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
- Ridgwell, Jenny (1986). The Book of Cocktails. HPBooks. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-89586-483-3. Retrieved 25 November 2008.