History Of A Tom Collins – Vemacity


History Of A Tom Collins

If you’re a gin drinker then there is a high chance that you will have tried a Tom Collins cocktail in the past. This drink has become a classic and you can almost guarantee to find it on any cocktail menu. We have got so used to seeing the name Tom Collins but, where did this drink actually come from and how long has it been around for? Vemacity have answered all of these questions and put together a quick guide to the history of a Tom Collins. 

Who invented the Tom Collins?

There are two main stories for how the Tom Collins came about, some say that England was the originating country for the Tom Collins cocktail and a person named John Collins was its creator but, the majority of people believe that it originates back to the Tom Collins hoax of 1874. 

There is actually a cocktail called a John Collins, it is believed to have been invented in the 1860s by a headwaiter of that name who worked at Limmer's Old House in Conduit Street in Mayfair. The cocktail is incredibly similar to the Tom Collins that we know today and contained Old Tom Gin. Because of the use of this specific gin, some say that the name changed to a Tom Collins.

However, some say that this drink came about after the Tom Collins hoax back in 1874. People in the United States would start a conversation with "Have you seen Tom Collins?". The listener would then predictably react saying that they didn’t know a Tom Collins but, the speaker would then insist that Tom Collins was talking about them and that he was at a local bar, causing the listener to head off to find the so-called Tom Collins. It is said that a bartender caught on to this hoax and named a drink "Tom Collins" so that if anyone came rushing into his bar seeking revenge and asking for Tom Collins, would unknowingly have ordered a gin drink instead.

When was the Tom Collins first published as a cocktail?

Regardless of how the name for this cocktail actually came about, it was first published in the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas' Bar-Tender's Guide. The type of gin used to make this cocktail wasn’t specified in this book but, was most likely Old Tom if that was responsible for the change in the drink's name and if not, it is more probable that Holland gin was used. This is due to the fact that there was much more of this gin being imported into the US at the time. 

The Tom Collins then went to be published in numerous cocktail guides due to its high demand. 

What ingredients were traditionally used in a Tom Collins?

The main ingredients that are used in a Tom Collins haven’t changed too much over time. That being said, the quantity/ratio of the ingredients have differed. 

The very first published recipe from ‘The Bartender’s Guide’ by Jerry Thomas was as follows;

5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup (sugar syrup)

Juice of a small lemon

1 large wine-glass of gin

2 or 3 lumps of ice

In 1986 ‘The Book of Cocktails’ provided a new modern take on the original recipe and created a long drink. This contained;

Ice Cubes

2 oz Dry Gin

2 oz  Lemon Juice

1 Teaspoon Sugar Syrup

Soda Water

These days, in the majority of cocktail bars, a Tom Collins isn’t too dissimilar from the recipes mentioned above. However, bartenders usually fill the whole glass with ice before adding the ingredients and topping with soda so, it is less strict. You can expect to find the following measurements in your standard Tom Collins nowadays; 

60ml Gin 

30ml Lemon Juice

20ml Sugar Syrup


Similarly to the majority of the cocktails we know and love, the origin of the Tom Collins isn’t clear and the recipe has changed over the years. The one thing we do know is that this cocktail is loved by many and will continue to be for many years to come. You can never go wrong when ordering a Tom Collins, it will be served in luxury gin glass and you can guarantee it will taste delicious. 

If you would like to make your own Tom Collins at home it is incredibly easy to do so and you can use various different gins too. If you’re looking to buy some gin glasses then Vemacity can help. We can supply you with gin glass gift sets that don’t only contain Copa gin glasses but also a double-sided jigger and a cocktail mixing spoon, so you are ready to make your very own Tom Collins. 

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