Tom Collins Gin Cocktail

In the summer of 1874, spirited young men would race to a friend and say this lout Tom Collins is saying terrible things about you at the local bar, and when you got there the bouncer or bar man would tell you that he had headed off to the nearest bar. So you chase all over town asking bars for a Tom Collins. Tom Collins was the phishing DM of the 19th century. The prank was so convincing that the press reported on this lout spreading rumours about decent people, how he was still at large. Eventually bar tenders got in on the joke and made a drink of the same name. One Jerry Thomas included the Tom Collins in the 1876 edition of The Bartenders Guide. But is that the true history?

According to other sources the Tom Collins was actually invented in a London hotel in the early 19th century, the head waiter was one John Collins, and the Tom Collins was made with Old Tom Gin, a lightly sweetened gin that was very popular at the time. Hence the name Tom Collins.

Or it was invented by an Irish immigrant to New York in the 1840s as refreshing relief to the New York heat.

The long and short of it is no one really knows, but damn it tastes good!

For this recipe you’ll need to make a sugar syrup. You can try to dissolve straight sugar into the gin, but a syrup will give you a better and more consistent result.

1 part sugar
1 part boiling water

Place sugar in a heatproof jug, pour over boiling water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool then pour into a clean dry bottle. Store in the fridge and should last a few weeks.


45mL Old Tom style gin
15mL fresh lemon juice
15mL sugar syrup
Sparkling mineral water

In a shaker, combine gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup, Give it a good shake and strain into a tumbler or high ball full of ice. Top with sparkling mineral water and serve with a lemon slice garnish.

This is such a summery, refreshing cocktail, it’s not quite seasonal for Sydney at the moment, but it’s a great alternative to a gin and tonic if you’re looking for something not quite as sweet.

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