Welcome to week 4 of our summer cocktail series. To see past recipes, click on the Cocktails category.
Most discussions of the Tom Collins start off with a description of the drink’s history. It’s been around since the 1870s and is often confused with a similar drink called the Gin Fizz, so the back story is interesting. But, I’m not going to talk about that (read this if you’re interested). Instead, I’m going to tell you that, over a summer when I was about 16, I learned that I liked a Tom Collins.
At the time, I thought that a pre-made bottle of Collins mix was necessary to make the drink. The mix was crazy sweet and chemically, but I was 16 and had dubious taste. It was the mid-nineties and overly sweet cocktails (__-tinis, as most of them were called) were all the rage. Thankfully, that sort of thing has mostly fallen out of vogue (that horrid Collins mix might have had a role in ending the trend). Since that fateful summer, I have never again personally witnessed anyone order or drink a Tom Collins.
Fast forward to my 30s. I was sipping on a gin and fizzy lemonade and started reminiscing about my summer of Tom Collinses (can they be pluralized?). I had no idea what was in one. So, I looked it up. I was stunned to find I was pretty much drinking one at that very moment. The only thing I was missing was the characteristic garnish of a maraschino cherry and an orange slice.
I’m sure you can guess how I feel about maraschino cherries (see the grenadine post), and I don’t think the orange slice adds anything, other than extra fruit for the bartender to cut up and you to subsequently push away on your cocktail napkin. I wanted to make a new Tom Collins. I didn’t want to recreate the 1990s Tom Collins or even the original Tom Collins (which uses a style of gin that isn’t my favorite). Instead, I decided to combine something new with something old.
In this recipe, I call for maraschino liquor. Don’t be worried! It has nothing to do with regular (aka nuclear) maraschino cherries (which I admittedly adored in my Shirley Temples as a kid). It’s made from the pits of Marasca cherries and has a sweet taste with a bit of a bitter edge. It’s really nice. As far as I know, the only brand of maraschino liquor that’s commonly available in the U.S. is called Luxardo. Much like the Tom Collins, Luxardo has been around since the 1800s. It’s used in a lot of vintage cocktails. So, while I usually try to stay away from obscure ingredients in my blog posts, I’m making an exception for this one. It’s worth it. And I’ll definitely, definitely refer to Luxardo in the future (among many things, I’m dreaming of making my own maraschino cherries from fresh cherries…).
Anyway, let’s get together to bring back the Tom Collins. It’s a great drink — especially this new version.
A modern Tom Collins
Makes 1 drink
- 1.5 oz gin (I’m currently using Trader Joe’s gin, but I wish I were mixing with a citrusy gin called No. 209)
- 0.5 oz maraschino liquor (Luxardo)
- 0.5 oz simple syrup (approx 1 t sugar dissolved in 1 t water)
- 1 oz lemon juice (or the juice from 1 large lemon)
- 2.5 oz club soda (or, a little more or less, as needed to fill your glass)
- 1 lemon rind peeling for garnish (as in, use a peeler and take a swipe at a lemon rind, then curl the peeling between your finger — this brings out the oils from the lemon rind)*
Add all the ingredients except the soda to a shaker (or pint glass) and mix well.
Fill a rocks glass (or a Collins glass) with ice and pour the mixture into your glass. Top off with soda water. Garnish with the lemon peel.
*I tried garnishing with a lemon peel, an orange peel, and both a lemon and orange peel. I decided that just lemon was best, but you may want to see what you think…