Here’s a classic Tom Collins, that popular gin cocktail that’s light and bubbly! Here’s how to make this refreshing drink: and don’t forget the cherry.

Tom Collins

Ahh, the Tom Collins: this nostalgic cocktail is about as classic as it gets! This tall highball drink is a essentially gin sour, a sweet and sour drink made with gin. A cousin of the gin fizz, it’s refreshing and bubbly, impressively loaded with ice in a highball glass. Top with a cocktail cherry and it’s one of the most sought-after cocktails out there. Every time we serve one to friends, it gets rave reviews. Here’s exactly how to make this classic cocktail!

What’s in a Tom Collins?

The first recipe for a Tom Collins was published in 1876. The drink dates back to at least 1869, supposedly named after a waiter in London by that name. How’s that for a historical cocktail? The Tom Collins makes the list of the International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails (with the name John Collins), meaning that it has an “exact” definition. What’s in a Tom Collins?

What’s the difference between a John Collins and a Tom Collins? The Tom Collins is made with Old Tom Gin, a type of gin with a sweet flavor. The John Collins is the original name of the drink, and sometimes refers to this drink made with any type of gin. But the modern definition of a John Collins is a Tom Collins made with whiskey. You can also make a Tom Collins with vodka, called the Vodka Collins.

Cocktail cherry garnish

How to make a Tom Collins

Now that you know the ingredients…how to make a classic Tom Collins? There are just a few simple steps with this one:

  1. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Take gin, lemon juice, and syrup and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes. (The number of ice cubes is specific so the drink doesn’t get too watered down.)
  2. Strain into a glass and top off with soda water. Strain the drink into a glass with ice cubes. Then top it off with soda water.
  3. Garnish! The garnish is what makes the signature Tom Collins. Add a maraschino cherry for the full effect! You can also add a lemon wheel if you’d like.

Do I need a cocktail shaker?

No, but it’s nice to have! Cocktail shakers are inexpensive and worth having if you find yourself making lots of cocktails. The one we use is this Favorite Cocktail Shaker. It quickly chills cocktails by shaking them against the ice, then it has a perforated lid so you can pour out the drink without pouring the ice.

What if you don’t want to buy a cocktail shaker? Use a glass mason jar and a strainer! Place the cocktail in the jar and fill it with ice. Put on the top (or cover it with your hand) and shake away! When you pour the drink into a glass, pour it through a strainer to strain out the ice.

Tom Collins
The best photo of a Tom Collins? We think it’s this one.

Two ways to sweeten this Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is sweeter than just about any of our cocktail recipes! Because it’s Here at A Couple Cooks, we’ve experimented with a few different cocktail sweeteners. If you’re looking for a naturally sweet alternative, we’ve got your back! Here’s what we like to use:

  • Maple syrup: Alex and I have found that pure maple syrup is a fantastic sweetener. It has a nuanced flavor and gentle way of sweetening drinks. It doesn’t taste like maple: it just brings in a light sweet flavor.
  • Simple syrupOr, go ultra classic and use simple syrup. It takes just 5 minutes to make: here’s how to make simple syrup.
How to make clear ice

A quick note on clear ice

As you can see from these photographs, we didn’t use normal ice cubes with this Tom Collins cocktail: we made it with clear ice! Clear ice is artisanal ice used in cocktails because of its crystal clear look and beautiful organic shapes. You can make clear ice at home and it’s so easy! All you need is a small cooler and 24 hours, and your cocktails will look extra stunning. Here’s How to Make Clear Ice.

When to serve a Tom Collins

A Tom Collins is nostalgic and classy, perfect for parties and entertaining, or happy hour. It’s great as a:

Tom Collins cocktail

More classic cocktails

Here at A Couple Cooks, we’ve been making all the great classic cocktails. Here are a few of the best of the best:

  • Classic Margarita The only margarita recipe you need! Here’s how to make the very best margarita with 3 simple ingredients: lime, Cointreau and tequila—and no added sugar.
  • Classic Mojito Here’s a classic mojito recipe, perfectly balanced with lime, rum and fresh mint! This iconic Cuban cocktail is refreshing and just sweet enough.
  • Gin and Tonic Here are the keys to the very best gin and tonic, the most refreshing 2-ingredient cocktail! A few secrets take this crisp, botanical drink over the top.
  • Gin Fizz Cocktail Want another gin cocktail? Try a refreshing Gin Fizz: it’s sweet, tangy, and has a frothy egg white foam topping.
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Tom Collins

Tom Collins Cocktail (Simple Classic!)

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


Here’s a classic Tom Collins, that popular gin cocktail that’s light and bubbly! Here’s how to make this refreshing drink: and don’t forget the cherry.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) dry gin
  • 3/4 to 1 ounce (1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons) simple syrup or maple syrup
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
  • ½ cup soda water
  • Ice (try our clear ice!)
  • For the garnish: maraschino cherry, lemon wheel


  1. Add the gin, syrup and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes. Shake well until chilled.
  2. Strain the liquid into an ice filled glass, and top off the glass with soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel and cocktail cherry.
  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Tom Collins

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.

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  1. Hi guys I own a small Restaurant in the country side. This weekend I am going to make your Tom Collins cocktail and clear ice , I know I am going to surprise the locals. Thanks for the recipe.