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Tom Collins Cocktail

Here’s a classic Tom Collins, that popular gin cocktail that’s light and bubbly! Here’s how to make this refreshing drink: and don’t forget the cherry.

Ahh, the Tom Collins: this nostalgic cocktail is about as classic as it gets! This tall highball drink is a essentially gin sour, a sweet and sour drink made with gin. A cousin of the gin fizz, it’s refreshing and bubbly, impressively loaded with ice in a highball glass. Top with a cocktail cherry and it’s one of the most sought-after cocktails out there. Every time we serve one to friends, it gets rave reviews. Here’s exactly how to make this classic cocktail!

What’s in a Tom Collins?

The first recipe for a Tom Collins was published in 1876. How’s that for a historical cocktail? Many classic drinks were created in the 1920’s, but this one is far older. The Tom Collins makes the list of the International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails (with the name John Collins), meaning that it has an “exact” definition. What’s in a Tom Collins?

What’s the difference between a John Collins and a Tom Collins? The Tom Collins is made with Old Tom Gin, which is sweeter. The John Collins can be made with any type of gin. So essentially: they’re just about the same thing! The garnish on a Tom Collins is also pretty classic. You must garnish with a lemon slice and a maraschino cherry! Otherwise it’s not really a Tom Collins (is it?). 

How to make a Tom Collins

Now that you know the ingredients…how to make a classic Tom Collins? There are just a few simple steps with this one:

  1. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Take gin, lemon juice, and syrup and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes. (The number of ice cubes is specific so the drink doesn’t get too watered down.)
  2. Strain into a glass and top off with soda water. Strain the drink into a glass with ice cubes. Then top it off with soda water.
  3. Garnish! The garnish is what makes the signature Tom Collins. Add a maraschino cherry for the full effect! You can also add a lemon wheel if you’d like.

Do I need a cocktail shaker?

No, but it’s nice to have! Cocktail shakers are inexpensive and worth having if you find yourself making lots of cocktails. The one we use is this Favorite Cocktail Shaker. It quickly chills cocktails by shaking them against the ice, then it has a perforated lid so you can pour out the drink without pouring the ice.

What if you don’t want to buy a cocktail shaker? Use a glass mason jar and a strainer! Place the cocktail in the jar and fill it with ice. Put on the top (or cover it with your hand) and shake away! When you pour the drink into a glass, pour it through a strainer to strain out the ice.

Two ways to sweeten this Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is sweeter than just about any of our cocktail recipes! Because it’s Here at A Couple Cooks, we’ve experimented with a few different cocktail sweeteners. If you’re looking for a naturally sweet alternative, we’ve got your back! Here’s what we like to use:

  • Maple syrup: Alex and I have found that pure maple syrup is a fantastic sweetener. It has a nuanced flavor and gentle way of sweetening drinks. It doesn’t taste like maple: it just brings in a light sweet flavor.
  • Simple syrupOr, go ultra classic and use simple syrup. It takes just 5 minutes to make: here’s how to make simple syrup.

A quick note on clear ice

As you can see from these photographs, we didn’t use normal ice cubes with this Tom Collins cocktail: we made it with clear ice! Clear ice is artisanal ice used in cocktails because of its crystal clear look and beautiful organic shapes. You can make clear ice at home and it’s so easy! All you need is a small cooler and 24 hours, and your cocktails will look extra stunning. Here’s How to Make Clear Ice.

When to serve a Tom Collins

A Tom Collins is nostalgic and classy, perfect for parties and entertaining, or happy hour. It’s great as a:

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