Tom Collins Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Tom Collins

3 Conversations


  • 2oz Gin (dry is preferred)
  • 1oz Lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 3oz Club soda


  • Mix gin, lemon juice and sugar with ice in a shaker. Shake well.

  • Strain into a Collins glass nearly filled with ice.

  • Add club soda. Garnish with a lime slice or wedge1.


Unless you are royalty, your Tom Collins will never be made like this. Nobody makes a Collins from scratch. A Collins mix - which is basically club soda, lemon juice, and sugar - is generally sprayed from the fountain hose behind the bar. Americans can purchase it by the 2-litre plastic bottle in any decent-sized market.

Few bars have actual Collins glasses, which are generally speaking larger than a highball glass and often have a frosted texture. In bars, you will find a true Collins glass about as frequently as you will find a beautiful barmaid who digs drunk loudmouths. Most serve the Tom Collins in a highball glass.


The Tom Collins is widely popular and is best enjoyed as a sipping drink, to be savoured rather than guzzled, and is not for the sole purpose of getting drunk. Its popularity has generated both the glass in which it is served and a vast family of Collins-style drinks.

Part of the popularity of the Tom Collins comes from its reputation as a drink which is almost impossible to mix improperly. Throw some gin and Collins mix at some ice and presto. If the truth is to be told, there are precious few with taste buds sufficiently schooled to object to the more casual Collins concoction, which is probably why practically no two actual recipes for the Tom Collins are exactly the same. The important thing is not to get uptight about the particulars of the drink. Don't send it back if it's sweet gin in a highball glass with a lemon. The Tom Collins is a social drink, and demands amiability. Enjoy it with an air of sophisticated nonchalance.


Tales of the naming of the Tom Collins vary as widely as the recipes, though there are two basic varieties.

  • Some believe that it was named after the alcohol used in its mixing, Old Tom Gin, which was a sweet gin popular at the turn of the 20th Century. This still leaves the 'Collins' part of the name open to question.

  • Others believe it was named after the clever bartender who invented it.

Whichever, if either, is true, there is no consensus on exactly where or when the invention of the Tom Collins took place. A couple of stories refer to bartenders in the New York/New Jersey area, but San Francisco also believes itself to be the city of origin. The most common English story involves the head waiter from a hotel bar called Limmer's. Australia also lays claim to the drink's invention.

The mysteries surrounding the spawning of the Tom Collins suggest one conclusion; a Tom Collins is for drinking, not studying.


There are a ridiculous number of variations on the basic Tom Collins theme, most differing primarily in the main alcoholic ingredient. Here are a few of the most common Collinses, along with their base alcohols.

  • Brandy Collins (Brandy)
  • Jack Collins (Applejack)
  • John Collins (Bourbon)
  • Mike Collins (Irish whiskey)
  • Pedro (or Rum) Collins (Rum)
  • Sandy (or Jock) Collins (Scotch)
  • Vodka Collins (Vodka)
1Garnishes in the US vary from coast to coast. West Coast bartenders prefer lime, East Coast bartenders prefer orange. Often cherries find their way into the drink as well. Outside America, you're on your own.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more