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Colleen Graham

The Collins Family of Drinks

By September 19, 2008

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Some time back in the summer I was touting the beauty of the Gin & Tonic, one of my favorite drinks that I can always fall back on no matter what mood I'm in. Well, the "Collins" drinks fall into that same category with all the features of the simple G&T, but just a little more complex. What we're doing when going from the G&T to a Tom Collins is adding a little sweet and sour and changing up from tonic water to club soda. Easy enough right?
Tom Collins
Photo © Shannon Graham

Here's where things get a little tricky. Some bartenders will make a Tom Collins with bar mix (or sour mix) because the simple syrup and lemon are right there in one bottle. Other bartenders will pick apart the sour mix and use simple syrup with fresh squeezed lemon juice separately. Which is better? My humble opinion always pines for the fresh route, but either makes a decent drink.

Then we get into the other "Collins" drinks. There are many fancy concoctions that build off the collins base and you can include all kinds of fruits, berries, liqueurs or anything else you want to customize it (ie. Jazz Collins, Blueberry Collins, etc.). The most popular ones, however, are the Tom Collins (gin), the John Collins (bourbon) and the Vodka Collins (obviously vodka). When I was first learning the difference between the first two I had to create a trigger to remember which had which base liquor: for the Tom Collins think of Old Tom Gin and for the John Collins I think of the old country song that's on a 45 in my jukebox, Big Bad John (by Jimmy Dean), because that makes me think of backwoods bourbon stills. That's my association trick to keeping the two drinks straight, but I'm sure everyone has their own.


November 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm
(1) Monica says:

I know it’s been a long time since you wrote this article but perhaps you can illustrate me in: what’s the difference between a Tom Collins and a Gin Fizz? The only thing i found is the glass in which they are served

November 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm
(2) cocktails says:

Essentially, you’re right, there is not much difference. The main one is that the Gin Fizz includes egg. This is often skipped in more modern variations (making it a Tom Collins) because of concern for salmonella.

January 31, 2014 at 1:10 pm
(3) drinker says:

A Silver Gin Fizz has egg white. A Gin Fizz could be very similar to a Tom Collins, if they made the fizz with Old Tom Gin. The Tom Collins needs Old Tom Gin..and it needs to be served in a collins glass with ice. A Gin Fizz does not have ice, which is likely the biggest difference.

TL;DR: A Gin Fizz does not have ice (or egg)

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