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Tom Collins

Cotswold Cocktail School - Tom Collins Cocktail Recipe

ABV 14% / 2.5 alcoholic units

Primary spirit: Gin

A Brief History of the Tom Collins

The Tom Collins has a colourful history that dates back to the mid-19th century. Its origins can be traced to a humorous prank known as the "Tom Collins Hoax." As the story goes, a person would approach another and claim that a man named Tom Collins was spreading scandalous rumours about them at a nearby bar. The individual would then be incited to seek out this fictional Tom Collins, sparking a wild goose chase.

Eventually, bartenders capitalised on the hoax by creating a cocktail known as the Tom Collins, making it more desirable than pursuing an imaginary antagonist. The cocktail gained immense popularity during the late 19th century, and its reputation as a refreshing and enjoyable drink has endured over the years.

Taste and Flavor Profile

The Tom Collins is a cocktail celebrated for its bright and invigorating flavours:

  • Old Tom Gin: The heart of the Tom Collins, gin lends sweet botanical notes, including juniper and citrus, which are complemented by the cocktail's zesty elements.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice brings a vibrant and tangy citrus punch that balances the drink's sweetness.
  • Simple Syrup: Simple syrup (a mixture of sugar and water) adds subtle sweetness to harmonise the flavours.
  • Soda Water: Soda water or club soda provides effervescence, creating a fizzy and refreshing quality.
The result is a cocktail that's brisk, thirst-quenching, and perfect for leisurely sipping—a classic refresher that captures the spirit of summery afternoons.

Food Pairings

To enhance your Tom Collins experience, consider these delightful food pairings:

  • Seafood: Oysters, shrimp cocktail, or ceviche make for a refreshing and complementary pairing with the cocktail's citrusy notes.
  • Light Appetisers: Enjoy the Tom Collins with light snacks like bruschetta, Caprese salad, or cucumber sandwiches.
  • Fried Foods: The cocktail's effervescence and tartness are an ideal match for fried delicacies like calamari or tempura.
  • Mediterranean Cuisine: Tom Collins pairs beautifully with Mediterranean dishes like Greek salads, hummus, and grilled kebabs.

Bar Equipment

  • Bar spoon
  • Jigger
  • Collins/highball glass


  • 60ml Old Tom Gin
  • 25ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 20ml Simple syrup*
  • Soda top
  • Lemon wheel or maraschino cherry for garnish
  • Ice


  • Fill a Collins glass with ice
  • Shake the first three ingredients with ice and stain into the collins glass
  • Top off the glass with soda water and briefly stir
  • Garnish with a lemon wheel/maraschino cherry

*Simple syrup - 1 part sugar to one part water. Gently heat in a pan until sugar has dissolved and allow to cool

What's the best Old Tom Gin for a Tom Collins?

For a Tom Collins cocktail, traditionally made with an Old Tom gin, can introduce a slightly sweeter, more rounded botanical profile that adds a unique twist to the drink. Old Tom gin is a style of gin that was popular in 18th-century England, offering a sweeter taste compared to the more commonly used dry gins of today. This style of gin is a bridge between the juniper-heavy Dutch genever and the cleaner, crisper London Dry gin.

Here are a few Old Tom gins that are highly regarded and can enhance your Tom Collins cocktail:

  • Hayman’s Old Tom Gin - Hayman’s offers a faithfully recreated Old Tom gin that is slightly sweet with a botanically rich bouquet. It’s subtle and slightly floral, which complements the simplicity of a Tom Collins beautifully.
  • Tanqueray Old Tom Gin - Released as a limited edition, Tanqueray’s version of Old Tom gin is lighter than Ransom's but still features a sweet profile with a clear botanical presence that works well in a Tom Collins.
  • Hammer & Son Old English GinThis gin is produced from an ancient recipe of 1783 (contains 11 botanicals) presented in an old champagne bottle that at the time was in common use in England.
  • When using Old Tom gin in a Tom Collins, you might want to adjust the sweetness of the cocktail since Old Tom gins are generally sweeter than London Dry gins. Reduce the simple syrup slightly to balance the drink to your taste preference. This adjustment helps to highlight the unique characteristics of the Old Tom gin without the cocktail becoming overly sweet.

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