Do you know Tom Collins? The cocktail? If not, you’ve been missing out. I used to serve Tom Collins way back when I was a bartender, and I believe this classic drink deserves some more attention.
Tom Collins cocktails taste like grown-up lemonade. They’re irresistibly citrusy, fizzy and refreshing, with herbal notes from the gin. While lemonade can be cloying, Tom Collins need not be too sweet—I like mine with just a splash of simple syrup to round out the flavors.
If you enjoy a cold French 75 or Bee’s Knees, you’ll definitely enjoy a Tom Collins. They all share a similar flavor profile. Tom Collins are the perfect cocktails for hot summer afternoons, since they’re served over ice and full of hydrating club soda. I’ll always choose a Tom Collins over a gin and tonic.
To make a Tom Collins from scratch, you’ll need a few basic ingredients (gin, lemons, club soda, and sugar or honey), a cocktail shaker and plenty of ice. Add a fancy cocktail cherry if you really want to do it right. Cheers!
Tom Collins Variations
Keep scrolling for a classic Tom Collins recipe, or play around with one of these fun variations!
- Honey-Sweetened Tom Collins: This is my favorite variation, and you’re looking at it in these photos. Simply use honey instead of plain sugar to make your simple syrup. Honey’s floral flavors play beautifully with gin’s botanical notes.
- Herb-Infused Tom Collins: You could add sprigs of fresh lavender, thyme or rosemary to your pot of simple syrup before cooking. For maximum flavor, leave them in there until the simple syrup has cooled. Or, garnish your drink with a sprig of fresh mint or basil.
- Elderflower Tom Collins: Try substituting St. Germain (an elderflower liqueur) for some or all of the simple syrup, to taste.
- Cucumber Tom Collins: Use Hendrick’s gin, which has notes of cucumber and rose. Add several slices of fresh cucumber to your cocktail shaker, and shake really well before straining.
- Extra-Strong Champagne Tom Collins: Substitute brut Champagne, Prosecco or Cava for some or all of the club soda. Careful, this one will pack a punch!
- Bourbon or Vodka Collins: Use bourbon when the days grow cooler, or substitute vodka if you don’t like gin. I don’t think we can call them a Tom Collins at this point, but you know what? Tasty is good enough.
Adjust to Taste
You’ll find slightly varying ratios of the same basic ingredients in a Google search, but I think this recipe yields the perfect Tom Collins. That said, adjust it to suit your own taste buds.
This drink is lightly sweet as written—use more simple syrup to mellow the flavors, or less if you love tart drinks. Add more citrus for even more zing. For a less boozy and more hydrating drink, just use less gin.
Suggested Barware for Tom Collins
Here are the products shown in these photos (affiliate links):
More Refreshing Gin Cocktails
- Basil Gimlet
- Beautiful Red Bell Cocktail
- The Bootleg Cocktail
- Cucumber Elderflower Gimlet or Cucumber Mint Gimlet
Please let me know how you like your Tom Collins in the comments. I love hearing from you!
Tom Collins Cocktail
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 cocktail 1x
- Category: Cocktail
- Method: Shaken and stirred
This Tom Collins recipe is the best! Tom Collins cocktails are made with gin, lemon, club soda and simple syrup. They’re delightfully fizzy, delicious and refreshing. Recipe yields 1 cocktail, so multiply as needed (you can mix several at once in a cocktail shaker).
- 2 ounces gin*
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup, recipe below
- Club soda or sparkling water (I like Topo Chico)
- 1 lemon round or ½ orange round, for garnish
- 1 Luxardo cherry or other cocktail cherry, for garnish
Simple syrup (yields enough for 6 to 8 cocktails, scale as necessary)
- ¼ cup sugar (traditional) or honey (my favorite)
- ¼ cup water
- To make the simple syrup: Combine the sugar (or honey) and water in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat, whisking occasionally, just until the sweetener has fully dissolved into the water. Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside to cool.
- To make a cocktail: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake for 20 to 30 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is really cold.
- Fill a Collins (tall) glass with ice. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass. Fill the rest of the glass with club soda, and give it a gentle stir with a spoon.
- Garnish with a lemon round or ½ of an orange round, plus a cocktail cherry. Enjoy.
*Gin suggestions: Old Tom Gin is the traditional choice. Any gin that you enjoy will work, especially if it’s not overwhelmingly junipery. I used Rieger’s Midwestern Dry Gin, which has a nice, balanced flavor profile and is made here in Kansas City. If you’re generally not a gin lover, try Hendrick’s, which is more mellow in flavor and infused with cucumber and rose.
Measurement tips: I love this measuring jigger (affiliate link) for measuring small amounts of liquids. Or, use measuring cups and spoons. Two ounces is ¼ cup, 1 ounce is 2 tablespoons, and ½ ounce is 1 tablespoon.
Make it quick: Though the cocktail shaker method yields the nicest flavor, you could skip it and mix these drinks in ice-filled glasses (stir together the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup, then the add the club soda and gently stir to combine). They’ll taste stronger on the first few sips and mellow as the ice melts.