Ah, summer puts me in a mind for something refreshing and icy with a little zing and the perfect drink to fit the bill is the Tom Collins. The Tom Collins has been around since the 19th century, so it is definitely a vintage drink, but old recipes definitely can be a bit cryptic.
If you peruse vintage cocktail books for Tom Collins recipes, you will find ingredients like juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 glass dry gin, a split of soda water, 1 lump ice. If you’re far too analytical like me, you’re asking – how big of a lemon? ½ a lemon can give you anywhere from ¾ ounce to 1 ¼ ounce. How much is in a “glass” of dry gin? Do they mean a shot glass? For the soda, how much is a split? A split of champagne is 12 and a half ounces. That seems like a lot of water. And the books don’t give you handy reference charts for how to interpret these, probably once commonly understood terms.
I’ll fully admit, I’m not a booze expert, much less a vintage booze expert, so all of these terms could make perfect sense to a modern bartender. But I’m just a novice reading from a book, so I interpreted it to my taste.
The ratio I found I liked was my good old 3-2-1 ratio I mentioned in my last Cocktail Hour post:
Combine the lemon and sugar in the bottom of a glass and stir to dissolve the sugar. I like using confectioners sugar as it dissolves smoothly – no granules left on the bottom of your glass. Some now a days say use simple syrup. But I like the old school way.
Add the gin. I used Old Tom, which is a little sweeter than modern gins. In the 19th century they used to sweeten gins as they could be of fairly poor quality, with fairly toxic ingredients thrown in at the time. Once distillation improved, the need to sweeten gins diminished. Old Tom fell our of favor in the 30s and 40s, with a preference for drier gins coming to the forefront. I think Old Tom is delicious in this drink, but if you don’t have it, any dry or clean tasting gin should be just as refreshing.
Fill the glass up to the top with ice and top off the ice with club soda. The reason I say you may need a little more club soda is I have big Collins glasses and I just despise the idea of a glass not full to the top. Depending on how much ice I put in the glass, 3 ounces of club soda won’t get me to the top of my glass. But don’t add too much more club soda or you’ll just have lemon water. Sometimes I balance it out any additional club soda with another splash of gin. Make it pretty with either mint, a cherry, lemon slice, or what have you.
There you have it. A tasty libation for these hot summer days. Cin cin!
This refreshing libation is perfect on a summer day.