Have You Seen Tom Collins?

In New York City in 1874, a man became the most sought after and despised person of the times, but no one ever met him. His name was Tom Collins, and his name still carries on today.

Have You Seen Tom Collins?

Tom Collins, as the story says, was a loud and boisterous man who was known to sit in taverns and talk harshly of nearly everyone he’d met, or in many cases, those he hadn’t. Luckily, those who fell victim to Collins’ wrathe had good friends who would immediately find their friend and let them know of the blasphemies against them. The victim was then encouraged to find Collins and confront him. However, when the victim went to the tavern where Collins was meant to be, he was no where to be found. The reason for this, was, of course, because Tom Collins did not exist.

The prank came to be known as The Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. Two years later, Jerry Thomas included a new drink named after the hoax, in “The Bartender’s Guide.” It was then that those desperately looking for their revenge would walk into a bar asking for Tom Collins, and instead receive the sour cocktail.

Other Possible Origins

There is speculation that the drink was named for a London waiter named John Collins. According to history, the name was supposedly changed to Tom Collins after the advent of Old Tom gin. However, this is most likely inaccurate since both the Tom Collins and the John Collins appear in the 1876 “The Bartender’s Guide.”

It has also been said that the drink was invented by an Irish immigrant in the 1850s as a remedy to the excruciating New York summer heat. Made by adding lemon juice to a gin and tonic, the cocktail was light and refreshing and gave a needed break on those long summer nights.

The Collins Glass

The same shape as a highball glass, the Collins glass is bigger, holding from 10 to 14 oz. Once used solely for the mixing of the infamous cocktail, the glass become practical for a variety of drinks and is a bar room essential.

The Tom Collins


  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz sugar syrup
  • Club soda
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish
  • Lemon slice for garnish

Pour the gin, lemon juice, and sugar syrup in a Collins glass with ice cubes. Stir thoroughly. Top with the club soda and garnish with the cherry and orange slice. Serve.

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