Chinatown (1974) is a thirsty film. Private eye Jake "JJ" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) uncovers a water scandal in a drought-stricken 1930s Los Angeles, taking him from parched riverbeds to the lush, green lawns and ornamental fish ponds of a private estate.
Evelyn Cross Mulwray (Faye Dunaway, above) is an icy-cool socialite, dressed impeccably in crisp linens and pearls. She serves tea from a silver service with sugar and lemon, and apéritifs in cut crystal glasses. So, naturally, when she orders a cocktail, it's something chilled and brisk: "a Tom Collins with lime, not lemon."
The Tom Collins is just one in a family of fizzy, citrus-y drinks. First before it was the John Collins, said to be invented by a bartender of the same name in early 19th century London. Made with the Dutch juniper-flavored liquor, jenever (an early ancestor of gin), the drink never really caught on in the U.S. until another bartender substituted Old Tom Gin (a sweeter London-style gin), and the Tom Collins was born. (To add to the family confusion, a John Collins today is usually made with whiskey or bourbon.)
(makes one highball drink)
1 3/4 oz. gin
1-2 dashes gomme syrup (a.k.a. simple syrup) (1 tsp superfine sugar may also be substituted)
juice of one lemon (or lime)
Combine gin, sugar, and lemon (or lime) juice in a cocktail shaker and shake gently. Pour into a highball glass filled with ice. Top up with club soda and garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.