The ever-popular Tom Collins is a sparkling sour drink with a refreshing kick, a bright summer cocktail that couldn’t be easier to mix up.
A gin fizz, sparkling sour, or a simple spiked lemonade—the Tom Collins goes by many names, but it’s a classic no matter how you shake it. Old Tom gin, lemon juice, cold seltzer, and some sweetener over ice in a tall glass and you have a drink that is, somehow, both a simple pleasure and a well-crafted work of art.
How to Make a Tom Collins
A Tom Collins calls for gin as its only base spirit, typically a London Dry like Beefeater. Use Old Tom gin if you have it. If you want to explore gin a little more, try one of these Gin of the Month Clubs where you get to sample craft gin to find your personal favorite.
The dance partner for gin is fresh lemon juice, with a sweetener like simple syrup or even maple syrup to balance everything out.
If you want to get creative, you can muddle fresh lemon wedges with granulated or caster sugar, but from there the only trick is to sweeten your cocktail just enough to tone down the citrus, without making a sweet mess of the whole drink.
Top everything off with just a few ounces of a well-carbonated club soda.
The Secret to a Sublime Tom Collins
The difference between a deliciously passable Tom Collins and a memorable one might just come down to moderation, specifically when it comes to sweetening and chilling.
If you over-sweeten, you’re overpowering the beauty of a good gin. If you over-dilute your mix by over-shaking with ice, you’ll have a drink that is both less fizzy and less distinct in taste.
- Sweeten to your taste, but I’d say less is more.
- Shake your drink for no more than five seconds — just long enough to chill.
Best Gin for a Tom Collins
Look for Old Tom gin first, it’s less spicy and drier than London Dry, it goes very well with fresh citrus, rounding out all edges, while still having some character. Hayman’s is an affordable option, generally available, and frankly makes for a great Tom Collins. If you’re looking for a commonly used gin that is easy to find, try Beefeater.
How to Garnish a Tom Collins
You can take a classic approach or add some sophistication garnishing your drink. Below I outline three options, but, of course, feel free to come up with your own personal favorite.
- Tuck a lemon wedge or wheel along the side of the glass
- Spear a cherry through a folded up lemon or orange wheel
- Dip a thinly sliced lemon wheel in sugar and char it in a hot skillet until the sugar starts to caramelize around the edges
The Collins Glass
One of the few drinks served in a glass sharing its name, The Tom Collins (and all of the variations listed below) is served over thick ice in a Collins glass, a taller glass just a touch narrower than a Highball. If you don’t have one of these, by all means use whatever you have, but look for a glass tall enough to warrant a straw.
Tom Collins Variations
If you change your base spirit you’ll end up with a different Collins. Here are a few variations to try:
- Sandy Collins: Scotch whisky
- John Collins: Genever
- Pedro Collins: Rum
- Jack Collins: Apple brandy
- Pierre Collins: Cognac
More Refreshing Summer Cocktails
- 2 ounces Old Tom Gin
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces seltzer
- Lemon wheel and cherry flag, for garnish
Add ingredients to shaker and shake cocktail:
Add the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a shaker half-filled with ice. Shake until it’s just chill to the touch, about 5 to 10 seconds.
Strain the cocktail:
Strain the cocktail into the chilled Collins glass filled with ice.
Top with club soda and garnish:
Top cocktail with seltzer. Garnish with a lemon wheel and cherry flag. Serve.