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Tom Collins Cocktail

Simultaneously sweet and tart, the Tom Collins cocktail is a delightful drink that tastes like spiked lemonade. It’s also super simple to craft at home with just a few ingredients.

Tom Collins Cocktail with Black Background Close Up

After recently crafting and drinking our first Tom Collins cocktails, we had to wonder why the classic cocktail isn’t more popular.

We started smiling after just one sip. It didn’t take much longer for the summer sipper to earn a year-round spot in our cocktail rotation.

Discover more summer cocktails.

What Is the Tom Collins Cocktail?

Tom Collins Cocktail with Yellow Background
The Tom Collins cocktail tastes like summer in a glass regardless of the time of year.

Crafted with four key ingredients (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda), the Tom Collins fits into multiple cocktail categories.

It’s both a classic cocktail and a pre-prohibition cocktail that dates back to the 19th century. However, despite its advance age, the Tom Collins is neither stodgy nor old fashioned.

Discover more pre-prohibition cocktails.

Tom Collins Cocktail from Above
Pucker up! the Tom Collins cocktail has a bright lemon flavor.

The Tom Collins qualifies as a sour cocktail based on its ingredients. It also qualifies as a collins cocktail. And, while all collins cocktails are sour cocktails, not all sour cocktails are collins cocktails.

Collins Cocktails vs. Sour Cocktails
Both collins cocktails and sour cocktails include three specific elements – a liquor, citrus juice and a sweetener. Collins cocktails take the concept one step further with the addition of soda water. Plus, collins cocktails are typically served in either highball glasses or collins glasses.

Discover more sour cocktails.

History of the Tom Collins Cocktail

Tom Collins Cocktail with Black Background
The Tom Collins history is a bit of a mystery.

While Tom Collins may be a common name, it’s unlikely that a person named Tom Collins invented the Tom Collins recipe. Some cocktail historians link the drink to a British bartender named John Collins but that’s just one hypothesis.

Regardless of its inventor, the drink gained fame when Jerry Thomas included a Tom Collins recipe in the 1876 edition of his iconic bartender’s guide. That recipe specifically called for Old Tom gin. Dry gin, more common today, is used in crafting the modern Tom Collins recipe.

The cocktail has since appeared in various Hollywood movies including Chinatown and Meet the Parents. Now, with just a few simple pours and a stir, it’s appearing at our home bar.

Tom Collins Ingredients

Tom Collins Cocktail Ingredients
Our Tom Collins recipe includes gin, a lemon, simple syrup, fizzy water and ice cubes (not pictured).

Sure, you could buy bottled Tom Collins mix to quickly craft Tom Collins cocktails at home. We say don’t do it. The better option is to quickly craft the sour gin cocktail with the following ingredients:

  • Gin
  • Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • Simple Syrup
  • Club Soda or Seltzer
  • Ice Cubes
  • Lemon Wheel (garnish)

You probably already have these ingredients in your kitchen and liquor cabinet. If not, you should be able to find them all at your local market and/or liquor store.

Tom Collins Cocktail with Gin Bottle and Lemon
Using good quality gin and a fresh lemon is a must when crafting Tom Collins cocktails at home.

While bartenders used Old Tom gin to craft Tom Collins cocktails back in the day, you should use your favorite dry gin for this recipe. Bonus points to you if your favorite gin is Old Tom gin.

We like to use Citadelle dry gin from France to craft this and other gin cocktails. Produced in Cognac, the premium gin features 19 botanicals and has an ABV of 44%.

Discover more gin cocktails.

How to Craft a Tom Collins Cocktail

Tom Collins Cocktail Mise en Place
It was go time once we gathered the necessary ingredients and tools to craft a Tom Collins cocktail.

Once you gather the necessary ingredients and tools, the first step is to fill a highball class (or better yet a Tom Collins glass) with ice cubes.

Adding Ice to a Tom Collins Cocktail
These ice cubes went straight from the freezer to a highball glass.

Measure the gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup. We use a Japanese jigger to minimize spillage and ensure accuracy.

Measuring Gin for Tom Collins Cocktail
Measuring gin is a critical step in this Tom Collins recipe.

Immediately pour the three liquids into the highball or Tom Collins glass.

Top off the glass with club soda or seltzer.

Pouring Seltzer into a Tom Collins Cocktail
We topped this Tom Collins with Perrier seltzer that we poured straight from the bottle.

Gently stir with a bar spoon or another long utensil.

Stirring a Tom Collins Cocktail
A gentle stir transformed our ingredients into a Tom Collins cocktail.

Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Tom Collins Cocktail from Above with Lemon
A lemon wheel completed this Tom Collins cocktail.

While some recipes add a maraschino cherry garnish, we choose to skip that element since we’re going for more of an ‘adult lemonade’ vibe. Whether you add a sweet red orb to your Tom Collins is up to you.

Tom Collins Drink Variations

Crafted Tom Collins Cocktail
The Tom Collins is the OG collins cocktail but will it be your favorite?

Similar to non-alcoholic lemonade, the Tom Collins can be modified in a myriad of ways. Here are a few ideas to get your mixology juices going:

  • Add additional simple syrup to craft a sweeter Tom Collins cocktail.
  • Add egg white to craft a Gin Fizz cocktail.
  • Add a splash of maraschino cherry syrup to craft a pink Tom Collins cocktail.
  • Replace the gin with bourbon to craft a Captain Collins cocktail.
  • Replace the gin with rum to craft a Pedro Collins cocktail.
  • Replace the gin with tequila to craft a Pepito Collins cocktail.
  • Replace the gin with vodka to craft a Vodka Collins cocktail.
  • Replace the gin with whiskey to craft a John Collins cocktail.
  • Replace the soda water with egg white to craft a Gin Sour cocktail.
  • Keep things simple and craft a Gin + Tonic cocktail instead.

Discover 10 essential bar tools for the home mixologist.

Recipe FAQs

What is a Tom Collins cocktail?

A Tom Collins cocktail is a classic sour cocktail crafted with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda.

Where was the Tom Collins cocktail invented?

The Tom Collins cocktail was probably invented in London.

What are the ingredients in a Tom Collins cocktail?

Gin, Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Club Soda or Seltzer, Ice Cubes, Lemon Wheel (garnish) and optional maraschino cherry (garnish)

What gin is best in a Tom Collins?

Although the original Tom Collins recipe specifically called for Old Tom Gin, you can and should use your favorite gin to craft Tom Collins cocktails.

Is the Tom Collins cocktail shaken or stirred?

The Tom Collins cocktail is stirred.

What is the difference between the Tom Collins cocktail and the John Collins cocktail?

The liquor in a Tom Collins cocktail is gin while the liquor in a John Collins cocktail is whiskey.

What is the difference between a Tom Collins cocktail and a Gin + Tonic cocktail?

Both the Tom Collins and Gin + Tonic are crafted with gin. The Tom Collins recipe has lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water while the G+T recipe simply adds tonic.

Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.

Tom Collins Cocktail with White Background
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Tom Collins Recipe

The Tom Collins is the grown up version of lemonade. Craft one at home in just five minutes.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Drink
Cuisine: Cocktail
Servings: 1
Calories: 175kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • club soda or seltzer
  • ice cubes
  • lemon wheel (garnish)

Instructions

  • Fill a highball glass with ice.
  • Pour gin, lemon juice and simple syrup into the highball glass.
  • Top with club soda or seltzer.
  • Gently stir.
  • Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Notes

  • Your favorite gin is the best gin for this Tom Collins recipe.
  • Feel free to additionally garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Estimated Nutrition

Calories: 175kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 9mg | Potassium: 39mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg
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About The Authors

About The Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.

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Disclosures

Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Funding
We purchased the ingredients and tools used to craft this cocktail.

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Original Publication Date: September 7, 2023

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