John and Tom Collins

My featured image is of some cocktails friends and I enjoyed a couple of years ago. Cocktails have been ordered in the book I’m writing at the moment and one person wanted a Tom Collins – so I thought I had better check to see what this was. It was ‘invented’ in the USA in the 1870’s and is gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, sparkling water and no doubt ice… I don’t like gin so it’s not something I would ever order. The origin of the name is quite interesting – it started as a trick or a joke, where someone in a bar asked someone else about Tom Collins, and then said he was in another bar round the corner… I’m sure it was hilarious at the time, in 1874 and it’s from this hoax that some canny barman invented a cocktail named after the fictitious Tom Collins.

In actual fact there already was a drink called a John Collins which had been around for some time before; when I heard about John Collins I assumed it was a drink mimicking Tom, but no there was a gin punch around in the early part of the nineteenth century in London clubs. I have seen some recipes where bourbon is used instead of gin in this cocktail, however, I’m no expert and I’m not sure how authentic it is, but it sounds a more drinkable drink to my taste!

My father-in-law who I mentioned yesterday as not being a very good cook, was more interested in drinks; having been an officer in the navy he drank gin, as a guest pianist in local pubs he drank beer, He somehow acquired a small book of cocktail recipes, and here is the recipe for a traditional Tom Collins:

Tom Collins

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp fine sugar or simple syrup
  • 2 oz dry gin
  1. shake with plenty of cracked ice
  2. pour unstrained into a 12 oz Collins glass
  3. fill with carbonated water, stir and serve with straws

… and here is a variation from the same little book:

Tom Collins Angostura

  • 1 tbsp Angostura aromatic bitters (sufficient to give the drink a nice, rich, pink colour)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp fine sugar or simple syrup
  • 2 oz dry gin

… and then proceed as with the original recipe, adding the bitters in with everything else.

There is also a mint version which I think my gin drinking friends would enjoy very much, particularly if we have another glorious summer like we did this year!

Mint Tom Collins

  • 2 oz Old Mr Boston Mint Flavoured Gin
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp fine sugar or simple syrup
  • ice, sufficient
  • soda water
  1. place all ingredients in a 10 oz Collins glass
  2.  fill with soda and stir
  3. decorate with  a slice of lemon, a cherry and a sprig of mint

Old Mr Boston was a Massachusetts distillery which was founded in the 1930’s. It eventually became just plain Mr Boston. The recipe book I have, the ‘Professional Mixing Guide’, is the 1951 edition, but it was originally published maybe as many as ten or more years previously (possibly 1937) which explains why the mint gin has its old name.

Fruit and herb infused gins are now very popular, so there are mint gins  available; there are also what to me sound very strange combinations – strawberry and mint gin; chocolate and mint gin; raspberry and mint gin;  red rose petal, marshmallow root, goji berries and whole hibiscus flower flavoured gin; herbs of Provence, thyme, rosemary, pink grapefruit peel,  mint and fennel; and bog myrtle, heather flowers, meadow sweet, lemon balm, wild water mint and sea buckthorn flavoured gin…

If only I liked gin, I could try a whole variety of Tom Collins!

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