Sadly, I’ve not had the time I like to spend experimenting fully with this cocktail this week. But, on an up note, I have a wealth of prior knowledge to draw from. There are a few points I’d like to make about the Collins. The first being Gin is but one base spirit that can be used. A Vodka Collins, Rum Collins or even a Whisk(e)y Collins are quite tasty. I highly recommend making a Collins with your favorite base spirit. I’m betting you won’t be disappointed.
The next point is one of construction. Nearly every Collins recipe you run across will state that you should “combine over ice and top with soda”. Now, were I making this cocktail as a bartender I think this would definitely be the best method as its the quickest and will yield near absolute consistency given your ice remains the same size. For home preparation however I advocate a different method. When I build these I do the following: 1) Combine spirit, syrup and juice in a glass. 2) Swirl briefly to combine. 3) Fill glass to about 1-1.5″ from the top with soda water. 4) Add ice cubes slowly to fill remaining space. The resulting cocktail will not require stirring as pouring in the soda has effectively done that for you. Additionally there won’t be as much fizzing since you’re adding the ice at the end. I’m guessing that purists will tell me that this isn’t the “right” way to build this cocktail, but I’m not making it for them so :P.
Now for the selection of gin. As with most cocktails I’ll recommend you first try your favorite gin, it is your favorite after all. When I’m building this cocktail I reach for a citrus forward gin. I think with this choice the gin’s flavors and the lemon blend nicely and make for a very harmonious tipple. My choice if I’m just looking for a refreshing summer drink to quench my thirst is Baffert’s Gin. It’s very cheap which makes it a great choice if you’re going to be serving this at a party and I think you’ll really be surprised by the flavor. For such an inexpensive spirit its really very good. If I’m wanting to up the ante I bit I pull down my bottle of Indigo Gin. Again a citrus forward gin, but a touch more refined than the Baffert’s. All of that aside I don’t think I’ve made a Tom Collins at home with any gin that I haven’t liked.
Finally, the Tom Collins while dining out is always a roll of the dice. Generally, unless you’re at a restaurant with a great bar, you’re going to get gin, sour mix and soda water. And, as you may have guessed, the gamble comes in the form of the sour mix. There are some really great sour mixes out there, don’t get me wrong. Are they a replacement for fresh juice and simple syrup? Most definitely not, but they’re good for what they are, shelf stable sweetened cirtus juice. There are, however, some really terrible sour mixes out there as well. I went out with my cousin for dinner on Monday (Thanks again for dinner Mike!). The Tom Collins I ordered was really very good. Good enough in fact that I asked the waitress whether it was made with lemon juice or sour mix. Sour mix it was. In retrospect I should have known seeing as you couldn’t see any lemon juice pulp in the drink, but it was pretty damn good. So give it a go some time. You may be pleasantly surprised, and, if not, don’t order one there again.
The Tom Collins truly is one of my favorite summer drinks. It’s extremely refreshing and has enough liquid (other than alcohol) in it that you’re actually going to rehydrate yourself a bit. As with other cocktails we’ve covered here, I must pass on my warning. These are very easy to drink. Two, Three, Seventeen, all go down very easily. With that I leave you for another week fellow hackers. Enjoy your Collins. I certainly will.