The Tom Collins is a type of Collins cocktail made from gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. The first recorded Tom Collins recipe is from the second edition of Jerry Thomas’ book, “The Bartender’s Guide”, published in 1876, in which the Tom Collins is a class of drink, with the type of alcoholic spirit being used specified after the name Tom Collins (i.g. “-brandy”,”-gin”). It was others, who came after Thomas, who changed the Tom Collins into a purely gin drink.
Named after a hoax that was doing the rounds of New York in 1874, the Tom Collins has immortalsed itself into one of the most iconic gin cocktails around.
Jerry Thomas’ Tom Collins Gin (1876)
Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup
Juice of a small lemon
1 large wine-glass of gin
2 or 3 lumps of ice
Shake up well and strain into a large bar-glass
Fill up the glass with plain soda water and drink whilst it’s lively
The type of gin used by Thomas was not specified in his 1876 book, but likely to be Dutch gin rather than London Dry Gin since Jerry Thomas’ Gin Fizz (1862) called for Holland gin and the fact that Genever was imported into the United States at a ratio of approximately 6 liters to every litre of English London Dry Gin at that time. To recreate the recipe we would recommend using Bols Genever. (A more understandable version of his recipe goes something like – 60ml gin, 30ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice, 25ml sugar syrup, Top up with soda)
By 1878, the Tom Collins was being served in the bar rooms everywhere, establishing itself as an international icon. In 1891, gum syrup, was replaced in the recipe by sugar as well as the use of Old Tom gin, a lightly sweetened gin popular in 18th-century England.
The story of the hoax, goes something like… Tom Collins was a loud and boisterous man who was known to sit in taverns and talk harshly of nearly everyone he’d met, or in many cases, those he hadn’t. Fortunately for those who fell victim to Collins’ wrath, they had good friends who would immediately find their friend and let them know of all the profanity directed towards them. The victim was then encouraged to find Collins and confront him. However, when the victim went to the tavern where Collins was meant to be, he was no where to be found (because Tom Collins did not exist).
The prank came to be known as The Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. Two years later, Jerry Thomas included a new drink named after the hoax. It was then that those desperately looking for their revenge would walk into a bar asking for Tom Collins, and instead receive the sour cocktail.
“Have you seen Tom Collins?”
“If you haven’t, perhaps you had better do so, and as quick as you can, for he is talking about you in a very rough manner–calling you hard names, and
altogether saying things about you that are rather calculated to induce people
to believe there is nothing you wouldn’t steal short of a red-hot stove. Other
little things of that nature he is openly speaking in public places, and as a
friend–although of course we don’t wish to make you feel uncomfortable–we
think you ought to take some notice of them and of Mr. Tom Collins.”
“This is about the cheerful substance of a very successful practical joke which has been going the rounds of the city in the past week. It is not to this manor born, but belongs to New York, where it was played with immense success to crowded houses until it played out.”
Gettysburg Compiler (1874)