S.I.P.#5: Tom Collins

The fifth S.I.P. event is coming, and the theme it brings in the spotlight is Tom Collins, an evergreen classic long drink.

Born John Collins, it was mentioned in Harry Johnson’s «New And Improved Bartenders’ Manual» in 1882. At that time Collins was based on Dutch gin also known as genever or jenever. When Old Tom gin has came to market, John Collins found a brother Tom Collins by name. In Tom Collins bartenders utilized English gin – Old Tom, Plymouth and London Dry, of course.

It was Tom Collins who has became popular long drink while his brother John remained little known because of genever’s limited availability.

In the second half of 20th century Americans have thought of John Collins. But for the newfound John they used bourbon whiskey and not genever. New thing is none other than forgotten old thing. Ironically, Americans pretend to be Tom Collins inventors and John Collins is a Britain-born long drink which was named after London Limmer’s Hotel bar waiter John Collins.

Collins looks like a simple cocktail. That’s true but proportions and techniques details are important.

Old recipes called for huge amounts of gin and sugar and dashes of lemon juice. Tastes have changed and now bartenders take a half of ounce of lemon juice and simple syrup respectively for two ounces of gin. Also now Tom Collins is usually served shaken while Harry Johnson advised to stir it with ice.

I prefer to shake my Collins too – Tom and John as well. Also I like to add more lemon juice and sugar to balance London Dry gin bitter taste.

Tom Collins

  • 60 ml gin,
  • 20 ml fresh lemon juice,
  • 20 ml simple syrup,
  • soda water (~ 60 ml).

Shake all ingredients except soda water. Strain in high glass with a few big cubes of ice. Garnish with a slice of orange and a cherry.

Tom Collins

Exceptional freshness is the thing that I love in Tom Collins so much. Simple formula gives best result: smooth combination of delicate bitterness and sharp citrus sourness where both components are mellowed by sugar syrup. Light carbonation from soda water completes the composition so the cocktail actually turns to short drink because of irresistible temptation to gulp it fast .

And what about John Collins? I have a bottle of Bols Genever in use and this oude genever differs from London Dry gin as his specific malt flavour changes taste very much. It’s smoother, earthy and not too dry. Also it brings pleasant malt and wood notes in aftertaste.

Trying to preserve distinct taste of oude (matured) genever, I’ve slightly reduced lemon juice and syrup quantity.

John Collins

  • 60 ml genever (Bols Genever),
  • 15 ml fresh lemon juice,
  • 10-15 ml simple syrup,
  • soda water (~20-30 ml).

Shake all ingredients except soda water. Strain in high glass with a few big cubes of ice. Garnish with a slice of orange and a cherry.

For me, John Collins is as better than Tom Collins as oude genever better than London Dry gin neat. Genever brings a plenty of fine flavour undertones instead of plain gin dryness. Fresh as Tom Collins, John Collins is deeper in taste and offers much more mild and pleasant notes in the aftertaste.

Traditionally, for finale we are used to choosing unusual variants of reviewed cocktails. For my unusual Collins I have took an unusual gin. Smooth and aromatic Hendrick’s gin is flavoured by rose and cucumber essences and that makes cocktails with this gin sophisticated.

My recipe deviates from classic Tom Collins but I hope it’s not too weird.

Hendrick’s Collins

  • 50 ml Hendrick’s gin,
  • 15 ml fresh lemon juice,
  • 10 ml simple syrup,
  • 2 cucumber slices,
  • soda water (~20 ml).

Place cucumber slices in shaker, add syrup and lemon juice. Muddle very lightly. Add gin and ice. Shake and double strain in Collins glass with three or four big ice cubes. Top with soda water and give it a brief stir.

Special gin brings special taste. Here flavour composition is built on combination of delicate juniper dryness and fine bitter taste of cucumber peel. Citrus freshness prevails in the first sip nevertheless but cucumber overpowered it on the palate especially when it gets backing from mellow flavour of Hendrick’s botanicals.

This light and crystal clear bouquet brings real pleasure. I love Hendrick’s gin based versions of classic cocktails, and this one did not disappoint me.