Tom Collins Whisky

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 Whisky
5 or 6 Dashes of Gomme Syrup. (1/4 oz Rich Simple Syrup)
The Juice of 1 Small Lemon. (3/4 oz Lemon Juice)
1 Large Wineglass Whisky. (2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon)
2 or 3 Lumps of Ice.
Use small bar glass.
Shake well and strain into a large bar glass (12 oz Schumann Glass, over a single large cube of ice). Fill up the glass with plain soda water and imbibe while it is lively.

Aside from the “Prepared Punches for Bottling”, The Collins family is another section in the 1887 Jerry Thomas, which was not in the original 1862 edition of the book.

Reproduced below, you can see that the Savoy editors lifted the Tom Collins Whisky directly from that edition, including the charming, “imbibe while it is lively.”

Tom Collins Whiskey.
(Use small bar-glass.)
Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup.
Juice of a small lemon.
1 large wine-glass of whiskey.
2 or 3 lumps of ice.

Shake up well and strain into a large bar-glass. Fill up the glass with plain soda water and imbibe while it is lively.

Tom Collins Brandy.
(Use large bar-glass.)
The same as Tom Collins Whiskey, substituting brandy for whiskey.

Tom Collins Gin.
(Use large bar-glass.)
The same as Tom Collins Whiskey, substituting gin for whiskey.

Normally, modern bartenders will differentiate between the various Collins drinks by giving them different first names. Jose Collins is Tequila, Jack Collins is AppleJack, Michael Collins is Irish Whiskey, and so forth. Apparently at this early date, these names had not yet been codified and everything was just a Tom Collins with the spirit specified after.

Second point, even though these early versions of the Tom Collins were being made with sugar syrup, they were still being shaken.

The two glasses thing in the Savoy recipe is always a bit confusing, but in the Thomas recipe, it is a bit more clear that one is specifying the mixing glass (small) and the other the serving glass (large).

Another interesting point is that normally you’d write out the main recipe and then say, something like “made the same with Gin” for the variations. So in the case of Thomas, it seems like the Tom Collins Whiskey was the dominant drink, not the Tom Collins Gin (which would have been Genever, at that time).

Lastly, it doesn’t appear that Jerry Thomas is specifying that any ice be included in the serving glass of the Tom Collins Whiskey. I took the liberty of adding a big tovolo cube to my drink, as I prefer it that way, but it appears at that early date, even ice was optional. The only difference between a “Whisky Fiz” and a “Tom Collins Whisky” was the size of the serving glass and thus the amount of soda.

As far as the drink itself, as much as I like Whiskey, I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the Gin Tom Collins I had at Bar Agricole. Aged spirits and Lemon, especially Bourbon, I just don’t find as appealing in Citrus based drinks. Highballs, I don’t mind at all, but once you add that lemon, you usually lose me. Guess I should try it with some unaged Whisk(e)y!

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.

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.

Conduit Street Punch

So I was looking at a couple of these bottles of “White Whiskey” in my cabinet and thinking to myself, “When on earth will I ever drink this?” Casting about for ways to spare my family the trouble of disposing it after my demise, I got to thinking about the origins of Gin on a base of pot still grain spirit. Then I was reminded that David Wondrich, in his awesome book, “Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl,” remarked that the John Collins was a type of punch.

In fact, Reza Esmaili (now of Long Bar & Bistro) once had a drink on the menu at the late lamented Conduit Restaurant called (I think) the Hanover Collins. It had Genevieve Gin, Lemon Juice, and sugar. When I asked about the name, he got enthusiastic and ran to get his notebook, so he could recite the following excerpt.

My name is John Collins,
head-waiter at Limmer’s,
The corner of Conduit Street,
Hanover Square;
My chief occupation is filling of brimmers,
To solace young gentlemen laden with care.

Supposedly, he informed me, the Collins was named after the head waiter at this particular establishment in honor of his wonderful Gin Punch.

Hm, if the Collins is a Punch, maybe I could use these unaged whiskies to replicate it. A sort of bottled Tom Collins Mix.

Well, why not?

Starting with the methods and proportions from my adaption of Jerry Thomas’ California Milk Punch, we’ll give it a try.

Conduit Street Punch

1 Bottle Tuthilltown Old Gristmill Unaged Corn Whiskey, 750ml
1 Bottle Tuthilltown Hudson Unaged Corn Whiskey, 375ml
1 Bottle Death’s Door White Whiskey, 750ml

.6 oz Juniper Berries, Crushed
1 TBSP Coriander, Crushed
1 tsp Celery Seed, Crushed
1 tsp Anise Seed, Crushed
1 Cassia Cinnamon Stick
6 Green Cardamom Pods, Crushed
1 Long Pepper Pod, Crushed

6 Seville Oranges
4 Lemons
2 Limes

16 oz Water
16 oz Sugar
4 tsp Hubei Silver Tips Tea

1 Quart Straus Farms Milk

Method:
Zest citrus and add zest to Whiskies. Juice Oranges, 2 Lemons, and 2 limes. Strain, and add to aforementioned liquid. Add Spices. Allow to infuse for 48 hours.

Heat water and add tea. Steep 6 minutes and stir in sugar. Strain tea leaves out of syrup and chill.

Strain Peels and Spices out of Liquid. Juice other two lemons and add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Heat milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Allow to stand undisturbed for 30 minutes and filter through cheesecloth, removing milk solids. Add Tea Syrup to filtered booze mixture and pour into clean containers. Allow to stand for a couple days*. Rack clear liquid off of any accumulated sediment into clean bottles and store. Chill well before serving. Serve on ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes about 3 quarts.

*If you have space in your refrigerator, storing the punch chilled will greatly accelerate the separation of the remaining milk solids from the other liquids.

Well, hm. Tasting this room temperature, last night, after the Milk step, I was struck by two things. First, the Celery Seed was a mistake. It has an unpleasant earthy flavor which distracts from the higher flavors of anise and juniper. Second, this doesn’t taste like it has any booze in it at all.

When I serve my Milk Punches to people, they often remark that they could easily drink a pint glass of them, they are so smooth. I generally discourage that, as, smoothness and drinkability aside, I am pretty sure the alcohol content is up near 25%. And those were the Milk Punches made from rough spirits like Batavia Arrack and Jamaican Rum. This one, made from unaged pot still clear whiskey, is on an another level of smoothness altogether. Is this vaguely herby citrus water or punch?

I’m not convinced this particular Milk Punch is super awesome, I wish I had left out the Celery Seed. But I will bring it along tomorrow night, Feb 27, 2011, for Savoy Night at Alembic Bar. Stop by and ask for a taste, if you are curious. But I recommend caution.

EDIT

So, the celery seed element calmed down a lot after resting, and I have decided this is quite an enjoyable punch. The flavor is very light and somewhat reminiscent of Yellow Chartreuse. While fairly sweet, it has a somewhat dry presentation. It is really good, about 50-50 with chilled soda water, though still produces a pretty potent buzz.