But what ever happened to the drink which gave its name to that glass?
The Tom Collins first appeared in drink recipe books in the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas,' "The Bartenders Guide or How to Mix Drinks." The drink was incredibly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally made using a sweet style of gin called Old Tom, is was similar toa drink called a John Collins, and hence the name Tom Collins. There is also a story about a "Tom Collins" hoax which gave rise to the drinks name, but I won't go into that here. Regardless of how it got its name, the drink was very popular from the late 19th century well into the 20th century. It has even returned for a guest appearance in the PBS drama "Mr. Selfridge."
But the Tom Collins became a victim of its own popularity as bartenders, professional and amateur began to look for shortcuts. Collins mix, in bottle form or packets became a regular sight in shops, but now even finding these0 Tom Collins mixes is far from easy. Falling from popularity and new drink creations, as well as a new found love for wine, you must search high and low to even find the mix, and even bartenders sugar can be difficult to find today. (Note - Bartender's Sugar, also sometime know as Caster Sugar is super fine sugar and will mix well in drinks. Do not try to use confectioners sugar as it also has corn starch added. Use a simple syrup if you cannot find bartenders sugar)
These shortcuts, like so many shortcuts in life may make things easier, but they rarely make them better. The Tom Collins is a classic drink if made correctly which means using the correct ingredients. And they are very simple.
Juice half a lemon into a highball glass with lots of ice. Add a teaspoon of bartenders sugar or simple syrup, more or less, a jigger of gin, and a few ounces of club soda water. That's it! Now just sit back and enjoy the simple pleasures of a classic cocktail crafted in the days before air conditioning. A drink from a time when how you dressed, how you acted and what you ate and drank were dictated by the weather. This is one very special way to enjoy the summer. Cheers!