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History of The Tom Collins

Posted in Mixology

Consisting of four key ingredients: gin, lemon juice, sugar and soda water, the Tom Collins cocktail first appears in writing in the notes of Jerry Thomas, the father of American mixology, in 1876. But how this cocktail came to have this name is a fascinating tale.

In 1874, the ‘Tom Collins’ hoax broke out in New York. ‘Tom’ a boisterous chap who would speak unwell of all, and any persons that he came in contact with – or even those he didn’t come into contact with at the bars around the city.

Tom’s reputation was such that the Gettysburg Compiler (1874) contained the report:

Have you seen Tom Collins? “If you haven’t, perhaps you had better do so, and as quick as you can, for he is talking about you in a very rough manner–calling you hard names, and
 altogether saying things about you that are rather calculated to induce people
 to believe there is nothing you wouldn’t steal short of a red-hot stove. Other 
little things of that nature he is openly speaking in public places, and as a
 friend–although of course, we don’t wish to make you feel uncomfortable– we 
think you ought to take some notice of them and of Mr. Tom Collins.”

Of course, the victims of Tom – and their friends – would often return to the bars and taverns Tom had purportedly been seen to seek him out and have a few stern words with this chap. But he would never be found.

Exasperated, they would ask the barman for ‘Tom Collins’ – which as Tom did not exist – would result in a sour cocktail being handed over to them.

The Tom Collins Hoax spread throughout New York, and many say throughout neighbouring states. Two years later, Jerry Thomas would use this inspiration to create – or refine – this sour cocktail into one of the finest classic gin cocktails that is still a firm favourite amongst drinkers today.