This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

The John Collins cocktail is a whiskey spin on the classic Tom Collins! This bubbly highball drink never disappoints.

John Collins Cocktail

Here’s a fun whiskey drink that’s a spin on a classic: the John Collins cocktail! Where the Tom Collins stars gin and lemon juice, the John Collins swaps in bourbon whiskey. In fact, it’s essentially a sparkling whiskey sour, served up with soda water in a highball glass! Bubbly and refreshing, the whiskey is a bit more bold than the delicately botanical gin. It’s a delicious whiskey cocktail that works for nearly any occasion or season.

Looking for the gin version? Go to Classic Tom Collins.

What’s a John Collins cocktail?

The modern definition of a John Collins cocktail is a highball drink with whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water. The gin version of the drink dates back to at least 1869, supposedly named after a waiter in London by that name.

In fact, “John Collins” was the original name for the gin version of the drink. But when Jerry Thomas recorded the recipe in his popular 1876 bartending book, he changed the name to Tom Collins because the recipe called for “Old Tom gin.” Today there’s still some confusion between the two. Even the International Bartender’s Association calls the gin version the John Collins. But typically, the modern definition of a John Collins is:

John Collins Cocktail

How to make a John Collins

The John Collins cocktail is a simple highball drink that’s easy to make at home. Like most highball cocktails, you can build the drink in the glass! That means no need for a cocktail shaker. Here’s what to do (or jump right to the recipe):

  1. Pour whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a glass. Add ice.
  2. Top off with soda water. Use as much as you’d like, and whatever fits in your glass.
  3. Garnish! Top it off with a cocktail cherry and lemon wedge. If you’d like, add a fun straw!

Types of whiskey

You can use any type of whiskey in a John Collins cocktail, but it’s best with bourbon whiskey. Bourbon gives it those classic sweet notes, with a finish of oak and vanilla. Bourbon is the most common for a John Collins, but another nice choice is Irish whiskey. It’s very mellow and melds well into the flavors for a light and refreshing drink.

Other types of whiskey like rye, Tennessee, Canadian, Scotch or Japanese whiskey work: they just bring different flavor profiles to the drink. These make a heavier and more complex drink, whereas the John Collins is known for its light effervescence. But feel free to experiment and find the whiskey that works for you.

John Collins Cocktail

More Collins cocktails

The formula of spirit, lemon, simple syrup and soda water works well with just about any liquor! Here are a few more Collins cocktails you might enjoy:

When to serve a John Collins

A John Collins is a classic cocktail that’s perfect for parties and entertaining, or happy hour. It’s great as a:

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
John Collins Cocktail

John Collins Cocktail

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The John Collins cocktail is a whiskey spin on the classic Tom Collins! This bubbly highball drink never disappoints.


  • 2 ounces* bourbon whiskey
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 4 ounces soda water
  • Ice (try our clear ice!)
  • For the garnish: maraschino cherry, lemon wheel


  1. Add the bourbon whiskey, simple syrup and lemon juice to the highball glass and add ice.
  2. Top off the glass with soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel and cocktail cherry.


*To convert to ounces, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: John Collins cocktail

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment