I’m Listening To: Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks (1966)
When the rarely seen warm summer’s day rolls around here in Newcastle, most reach for a bottle of ice-cold beer. I, however, think of a Tom Collins. It’s like alcoholic lemonade, and is (in my opinion) by far the most refreshing cocktail for a sunny day. So, as the “summer” (I use the term loosely) of 2016 winds to a close in the next few days, here’s my recipe for a classic Tom Collins. Try and enjoy it in the sun while you still can!
The cocktail itself is an old one, dating from the 19th century. Thus the most appropriate gin to use is the equally 19th century Old Tom Gin. This particular variety was widespread in the 1800s, but has almost entirely been replaced by the ubiquitous London Dry Gin. The resurgence of the cocktail culture, however, has seen something of a revival of the Old Tom variety – largely due to its usefulness in making cocktails such as the Tom Collins (which is more than likely named after it). In comparison to the modern London Dry Gin, Old Tom is sweeter and a little more accessible, and thus more suited to the Tom Collins. Good brands of Old Tom to try include Hayman’s or Poetic License (both available at Fenwick wine store for those in Newcastle). Other suggestions:Jensen’s or Tanqueray.
If you can’t get your hands on some Old Tom, or simply prefer a drier Tom Collins, I don’t think you can beat Beefeater. Feel free to experiment and try different brands, until you find the one that works best for you!
Per the soda water – unlike with a Gin and Tonic, I don’t think it’s really worth seeking out any premium soda waters, as it doesn’t contain the same botanicals. This means there really isn’t a lot of difference, so just stick with Schweppes. Fever Tree do produce a premium Club Soda (as seen on The Whisky Exchange) – but I haven’t tried it, and so can’t comment! Try and pick up soda water in small individual cans or bottles, rather than a single large bottle. This will ensure that the soda is fresh and fizzy for every drink you make. Schweppes used to have a pack of small cans widely available, but it unfortunately seems to have disappeared lately.
The traditional recipe for a Tom Collins calls for it to be ‘built’ (made) in the glass in which is it served. I like to divide it into two stages, in order to ensure the proper mixing, chilling, and dilution of the non-soda ingredients. However, feel free to just mix it all together in the one glass before topping with soda water – that is the original recipe, and also easier!
2oz/50ml Gin (preferably Old Tom, but this is dependant on taste)
0.75oz/25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately one half of an average-sized lemon)
0.5oz/15ml sugar syrup
Soda water (fresh and chilled), to top up
Ice (cubed, good quality)
Lemon peel or cocktail cherry to garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker/mixing glass with a few ice cubes. Add the gin and sugar syrup, then squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir for around 30 seconds, until the mixture feels nicely chilled. Make sure not to dilute too much ice!
2. Fill a Collins glass with more cubed ice, and strain the mixture from the shaker/mixing glass into it.
3. Top up with soda water. Stir like I described in my Gin and Tonic recipe – try rapidly twirling the spoon while moving it up and down in the glass. This ensures proper effervescence and mixing of the different parts!
4. Garnish with either a large, thin slice of lemon peel or a cocktail cherry (preferably a maraschino cherry).