Tom Collins

updated Dec 5, 2023

Think of this refreshing cocktail as the grown-up version of lemonade. Made with gin, simple syrup, lemon, and club soda, it's a classic.

Makes1 drink

Prep5 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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If you’re searching for a light, refreshing cocktail, especially on a hot day, a Tom Collins is the perfect thirst quencher. Hailing from the family of sour cocktails, which are mixed drinks that contain a base liquor, sweetener, and lemon or lime juice, the Tom Collins is a gin sour that’s tart, sweet, a little herbal, and effervescent, thanks to the addition of club soda or seltzer water. It’s a grown-up sparkling lemonade that’s great when you’re in the mood for something that’s sweet-tart and not too spirit-forward.

What Is a Tom Collins?

There are two competing beliefs on the origin of the Tom Collins cocktail. One is that it originated in the United States, but the more widely known story is that this cocktail was named after a waiter named John Collins. He worked at a hotel in London in the 1860s and created a popular gin punch that used Old Tom Gin. The first published recipe for a Tom Collins was in Jerry Thomas’ Bar-Tender’s Guide in 1876, which called for gum or sugar syrup, lemon juice, gin, and ice. Modern versions of the Tom Collins include club soda at the end.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

The Ingredients in a Tom Collins

  • Gin: While you can use any kind of gin in a Tom Collins, it’s usually made with London dry gin, which has a stronger flavor of juniper berry.
  • Lemon: Plan on 1 lemon per drink, as you’ll need 1 ounce of juice and a lemon round for garnish. The lemon juice adds the signature tartness and flavor found in a Tom Collins.
  • Simple syrup: A basic simple syrup made with one part water to one part granulated sugar provides the sweetness. This recipe starts with 3/4 ounce, but you can also go up to 1 ounce if you want the cocktail sweeter.
  • Club soda: Any kind of plain bubbly water will work here, where it adds effervescence and dilutes the other ingredients to the right ratios.

3 Tips for Making a Tom Collins

  1. Don’t skimp on the ice. You will need ice to fill a highball or Collins glass, plus more ice for shaking. Have plenty of ice on hand if you’re making more than one drink.
  2. Chill the club soda. There’s a good amount of club soda in here, so chill it first if you can and your drink will stay colder longer.
  3. Shake and strain. Some recipes call for just pouring all the ingredients into a glass, stirring it up, and serving in the same glass. This results in a cocktail that doesn’t stay cold for very long and one that can taste unbalanced because the lemon juice is not aerated. Shake the cocktail first, then strain it into a glass that has fresh ice before you add the club soda.

What to Serve with a Tom Collins

The tart and bubbly profile of a Tom Collins means that it pairs well with more savory snack foods. Try it with some store-bought or homemade cheesy crackers, popcorn, or spiced cocktail nuts for a delicious happy hour.

Tom Collins Recipe

Think of this refreshing cocktail as the grown-up version of lemonade. Made with gin, simple syrup, lemon, and club soda, it's a classic.

Prep time 5 minutes

Makes 1 drink

Nutritional Info


  • Ice

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 2 ounces

    gin, preferably London dry

  • 3/4 ounce

    simple syrup

  • 2 ounces

    club soda or seltzer water, preferably chilled

  • 1

    maraschino or Luxardo cherry (optional)


  1. Fill a (about 10-ounce) highball or Collins glass with ice. Halve 1 medium lemon. Cut I thin round from one half and reserve for garnish. Juice both lemon halves until you have 1 ounce.

  2. Place the lemon juice, 2 ounces gin, and 3/4 ounce simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Seal the shaker and shake until outside of the shaker is very cold and frosty, about 20 seconds.

  3. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into the glass. Top with 2 ounces club soda or seltzer water. Garnish with the reserved lemon round and 1 maraschino or Luxardo cherry if desired. Stir before serving or serve with a straw.