Tom Collins

First, just a reminder that Sunday, May 22, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Tom Collins
The Juice of 1/2 Lemon.
1/2 Tablespoonful Powdered Sugar.
1 Glass Dry Gin.
Shake well and strain into long tumbler. Add 1 lump ice and split of soda water.

The Tom Collins above was prepared by Rosa at the excellent bar and restaurant Bar Agricole, using Leopold’s Gin. I didn’t get the exact measurements, but she said something like, “Leopold’s Gin, 2-1, with dashes of house made stonefruit bitters.” They were very busy and I didn’t want to hassle her too much. Anyway, it was a delightful and refreshing quaff, I highly recommend stopping Bar Agricole for their Tom Collins, (or their great food.)

I’ve covered the history of the Tom Collins before, in the post about the Conduit Street Punch, so I won’t repeat that information. Short version, the Collins probably started a long time ago as a proper Gin Punch based on Dutch Gin (aka Genever), by the late 19th Century it was a long drink made  Old-Tom Gin, lemon, sugar and soda. By the 1930s, Old Tom was largely extinct and Tom Collins were being made with plain old London Dry Gin.

Sometimes we’ll get asked about the difference between this drink and that during our Savoy Night events. What’s the difference between a Daisy and the Fix or what exactly is the difference between a Collins and a Gin Fizz? I mean aside from the fact that a Tom Collins is served in a Collins glass and a Gin fizz in Gin Fizz Glass?

As we’ll see in a couple weeks, this is the recipe for a Gin Fizz:

Gin Fizz
The Juice of 1/2 Lemon.
1/2 Tablespoonful Powdered Sugar.
1 Glass Gin.
Shake well, strain into medium size glass and fill with syphon soda water.

That’s, yes, pretty much exactly the same ingredients, the same amounts, and nearly the same instructions as for the Tom Collins.

Many modern bartenders will differentiate that the Collins is built in the glass, while the Fizz is shaken and strained. However, it appears that this was not the case at the time the Savoy Cocktail Book was written (or before). Though the Savoy bartenders were apparently using teaspoons of dry sugar, so they really had no choice but to shake.

No, the big difference, as far as I can tell, is that the Collins is usually served over ice, while the fizz is served without ice.

But the other elephant in the room is how much soda is needed to “fill” either the Tom Collins Glass or the Gin Fizz Glass?

While the Savoy Cocktail Book was not particularly detail oriented regarding glassware (or garnishes, or much of anything,) fortunately another book published at around the same time, Patrick Gavin Duffy’s “The Official Mixer’s Manual,” was. He goes so far as to give the reader an illustrated guide to glassware and then indicate with every drink recipe which glass it should be served in. And, even better, he gives some volumes for the glassware.

In the figure above, glass number 10 is the Tom Collins glass, while glass number 12 is what Duffy calls the “Eight Oz. Highball”. This is the glass he directs you to use for fizzes. So if the illustration is to scale, and the “Highball” holds Eight Ounces, it looks like the Tom Collins Glass holds about 12-14 Ounces.

With “One Lump of Ice”, you are getting a lot more soda, almost an entire 10 oz split probably, in your Tom Collins, making it a much milder drink than a Gin Fizz. So that’s the difference, not the Gin, not the lemon, not the sugar, but the size of the glass, the ice, and the amount of soda.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

9 thoughts on “Tom Collins

  1. Thanks for taking the extra step and for pushing one of the finest summer drinks I wish I could order anywhere. Sometimes, when I’m feeling fancy pants, I prefer one of these to a shift beer.

        • Well, remember as long as you had ice, you had some refrigeration. The house I grew up in still had its insulated built in “ice box” which was chilled using blocks of ice.

          Though, probably what you would do at the bar is put your things that needed chilling in your ice bin, which bars still do to this day.

          Though, in the context of this drink, I don’t think artificially carbonated water was widely used in bars until the very late 18th Century, which is when you find drinks that use a lot of soda popping up, like the Tom Collins and Highball.

          You might have had bottled naturally carbonated mineral waters, but I think these waters were pretty pricey to use in regular bars. Things in bottles, also did not tend to travel well.

          By 1900, artificial refrigeration and machine made ice wasn’t far off.

  2. Pingback: Yamazaki 12 Highball | Savoy Stomp

  3. Pingback: Dubonnet Fizz | Savoy Stomp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>