While whiskey has been the steadfast darling of most cocktail enthusiasts, many spirits have had seen varying degrees of popularity. We’re in a golden age of Italian bitter spirits and amari with the prevelance of the negroni, Americano, and more. Additionally, mezcal has seen a huge surge in popularity with brands like Madre Mezcal giving them an appropriate level of respect. The humble gin has seen dips in appreciation but the past few years have offered a slight resurgence in gin and gin cocktails. Refreshing, botanical, and slightly nuanced, these gin drinks are approachable and relatively accessible. None more so than the Tom Collins.
A simple mixture of gin, citrus, sugar, and seltzer, the Tom Collins is a classic cocktail that endures thanks to its balanced flavor and thirst-quenching refreshment. Plus, it’s absurdly easy to make. Looking to nail the perfect Tom Collins everytime? you’ve come to the right place. We’re here with the best Tom Collins cocktail recipes.
The History of the Tom Collins Cocktail
Like all good cocktails, the origin of the Tom Collins cocktail isn’t perfectly clear. A rudimentary of the cocktail seems to have been invented (or simply popularized) at the hotel Limmer’s Old House in London. As the story goes, head barkeep John Collins coined the concoction of gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. As the drink was made with Old Tom gin, the cocktail’s name was altered to Tom Collins. By the late 19th century, the drink had earned widespread popularity.
How to Make a Tom Collins
The enduring legacy of the Tom Collins is in part thanks to how simple it is to make. In fact, you don’t even need bar tools. A simplified version of the Tom Collins cocktail can be simply made in the glass. That being said, if you have the time and the tools, we’d recommend shaking this cocktail.
The Tom Collins cocktail is made with gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and carbonated water and is served in a highball or Collins glass over ice. Traditionally it’s garnished with a citrus wheel and cocktail cherry. Also the OG versions were made exclusively with Old Tom gin but any gin will do in this refreshing cocktail.
Tom Collins Cocktail Steps
- Combine 2 ounces of gin, 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup, and 1 ounce of lemon juice in a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake vigorously until chilled, about 15-20 seconds.
- Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and top with soda water.
- Garnish with a lemon wheel and cocktail cherry.
The Best Gin for a Tom Collins
Tanqueray London Dry Gin
London Dry gins have become the most popular style of gin on the market. Tanqueray might not be the buzziest option but it offers quality and a solid bang for your buck.
At a slightly higher pricepoint is Plymouth Gin, a more nuanced yet still affordable London Dry gin.
Barr Hill Reserve Tom Cat Gin
While Old Tom gins aren’t particularly popular these days, Barr Hill offers an excellent modern interpretation which leans sweeter than most gins.
Neversink Spirits Gin
Neversink is a newer distillery revitalizing gin. Neversink’s gin is complex, progressive, and is excellent in a Tom Collins.
Tom Collins Upgrade: Make Your Own Simple Syrup
One of the surefire ways to improve your Tom Collins is by making simple syrup at home. Not only is it easier and cheaper than storebought simple syrup, it tastes better. Plus, you can mix it up by adding ingredients like cinnamon sticks, mint, lemon, and more.
Simple Syrup Recipe: Add equal parts sugar and water to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until fully sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool and then pour into an airtight container like a mason jar. Keep refrigerated.
Tom Collins Upgrade: Try Different Club Soda
Carbonation is key in a Tom Collins. At many bars, you’ll find cheap and accessible club soda. But, if you’re making a Tom Collins at home, the best and easiest way to change things up is swapping in different bubbles. Our favorite sparkling waters for cocktails are San Pellegrino or Topo Chico. They’re reliably well carbonated and offer a fizzy canvas for your favorite drinks.
Flavored seltzers could add a unique twist to the Tom Collins but we’d recommend not going for anything too sugary as it’ll throw off the balance of the drink. Sanzo Sparklin Water or even Ugly Drinks could be a neat alternative to the standard club soda.
3 Tom Collins Variations to Try
Swap out the gin for a white rum in this summery cocktail. Combine two ounces of rum, 1 ounce of lime juice, and 1/2 ounce of simple syrup in a shaker, add ice, and shake. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with seltzer water and garnish with a lemon wheel and cherry.
Raspberries add a completely new dimension to the Tom Collins with added acidity and sweetness. Muddle a barspoon of raspberries and 1/4 ounce of simple syrup in a shaker. Add 2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of lemon juice, and ice. Shake until chilled and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with seltzer and garnish with raspberries and a lemon wheel.
Embrace the pinker side of things with this lush Tom Collins variation which uses vodka instead of gin. Muddle half a lime, 2 cucumber slices, and 2 mint leaves in a shaker. Add 2 ounces of vodka, 3/4 ounce of simple syrup, and ice. Shake until chilled and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with seltzer and garnish with a cucumber wheel.