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Issue 51 - The Collins

Whisky Magazine Issue 51
October 2005


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The Collins

Ian Wisniewski on the most refreshing of all whisky cocktails

The Collins is a cocktail with a definitive mission statement: providing serious refreshment. This makes it perfect to sip by the pool, on a terrace, or in fact anywhere that you happen to be.

However, while the type of whisky within a Collins, perhaps bourbon or Scotch, can be readily apparent, any subtler details of the whisky unfortunately won't be.

Being an adaptation rather than an original, the whisky version of the Collins descended from a recipe created at the beginning of the 19th century, by John Collins, a head waiter at Limmer's Hotel in London's Conduit Street.

Named after its creator, this cocktail featured genever (a Dutch style of gin, which served as the prototype for British gin), combined with lemon juice and sugar, then topped up with soda water.

How popular the John Collins was beyond the confines of Limmer's Hotel is uncertain, though this became a far more popular cocktail once it began to be made with British gin, rather than genever.

Initially this meant using the most traditional style of gin, which was sweetened with sugar and known as Old Tom.

Consequently this version of the cocktail was renamed Tom Collins.

The recipe evolved again when bartenders switched from Old Tom to London dry gin, effectively a ‘sugar free' version which emerged during the 19th century, and soon became established as the principal style.

The popularity of the Tom Collins inevitably lead to experimentation, and it began to be made with other spirits, including rum...

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