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The Tom Collins is a classic gin cocktail that’s light and bubbly! Just 4 ingredients are required for this highball recipe.

Tom Collins
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Ahh, the Tom Collins: this nostalgic cocktail is about as classic as it gets! This tall highball drink is a sweet and sour drink made with gin. A cousin of the Gin Fizz, it’s refreshing and bubbly, 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!

Ingredients 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. 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. The ingredients in a Tom Collins cocktail are:

What’s the difference between a John Collins and a Tom Collins?

These two drinks are almost exactly alike. Technically, the Tom Collins is made with Old Tom Gin, a specific type of gin. The John Collins is the original name of the drink, and sometimes refers to this drink made with any type of gin. However, 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 simple syrup and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes.
  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.
Tom Collins
The best photo of a Tom Collins? We think it’s this one.

Two ways to sweeten a Tom Collins

The Tom Collins cocktail is the ideal blend of sweet, sour and bubbly. Here at A Couple Cooks, we’ve experimented with a few different cocktail sweeteners. Here’s what we like to use:

  • Simple syrupThis sweetener has a straightforward sweet flavor and takes just 5 minutes to make. Here’s how to make simple syrup.
  • Maple syrup: We’ve found that pure maple syrup is a fantastic sweetener for cocktails. It has a nuanced caramel flavor and gentle way of sweetening drinks (and don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like maple).
How to make clear ice

A quick note on clear ice

One way to step up this Tom Collins cocktail: make 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.

Do I need a cocktail shaker?

Cocktail shakers are inexpensive and worth having if you find yourself making lots of cocktails. 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.

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

Love the great classic cocktails? Here are a few more to try:

  • Make a Classic Margarita with only simple ingredients: lime, Cointreau and tequila
  • Try a Classic Mojito, perfectly balanced with lime, rum and fresh mint!
  • Go for a Gin and Tonic the most refreshing 2-ingredient cocktail! A few secrets take this crisp, botanical drink over the top.
  • Grab a Gin Fizz Cocktail it’s sweet, tangy, and has a frothy egg white foam topping.
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Tom Collins

Tom Collins Cocktail

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


The Tom Collins is a classic gin cocktail that’s light and bubbly! Just 4 ingredients are required for this highball recipe.


  • 2 ounces* dry gin
  • 3/4 to 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 4 ounces (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.


*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Michael says:

    I found your website several weeks ago looking for a good margarita recipe. I had been struggling to dial one in for years in spite of the simple and limited ingredients. Turns out I was using the wrong tequila and I never would have known that without your website. Im not a big tequila fan so I thought one was as good as any. Since then, I’ve made several of your elusively simple drinks for guests – following your instructions word for word – and I’ve had nothing but compliments.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      So glad to hear that! We’ve found you can’t make anything good with bad tequila :)

  2. Beervel says:

    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.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Enjoy! Thanks for making