Tippling Point | Summer is still some time away but it’s never too early to meet Tom Collins

Here’s the story of the birth of a phenomenal cocktail, with the recipe thrown in, cheers

January 16, 2021 / 12:57 PM IST
Representational image.

Representational image.

“Are you Mr Jacob?"

"Yeah, but, do you know me!"

"Not much. But I've just heard Tom Collins talking about you."

"Tom what! I have never made his acquaintance."

"Perhaps you had better do so, as quick as you can, for he is talking about you in a very bad manner. He was calling you bad names, and convincing all these people around here that you are a mean fellow who'd stoop to any level for money!"


"What!!!" you jump from your seat, "where the hell is he!" your blood boils now and you want to pulverise the head of that bloody nincompoop for what he was doing against your good name.

"I think, he has gone to the bar at the opposite side for a refill."

Paying the bill, you stomp off to meet the villain in the neighbourhood bar. But uh oh, you have just missed, the people in the opposite bar would tell you confirming the case that one Tom Collins was indeed talking bad about you.

Enraged, you raid around the whole town after the guy, hardly guessing there is no Tom Collins in the locality. These guys you met in the morning who suddenly grew concerned about your good name were actually pulling your legs.

Hey, don't laugh off the chance of such a practical joke on your life.

The great Tom Collins hoax

This is an actual scene culled out from the Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874 that gave birth to the phenomenal cocktail named Tom Collins. Though its beginning is shrouded in mystery, during the year 1874 hundreds of New Yorkers who frequented public places were told one Tom Collins had been besmirching their names just before they came to a scene.

"Have you seen Tom Collins” was the pickup line. Enraged after listening what the fellow had done to their reputation, they'd set off immediately to settle scores with the man at large.

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Imagine, for a brief time, even major newspapers latched on to this sensation that they too joined the hunt for the elusive man named Tom Collins. They propagated the joke by printing news of real-life Collins sightings, urging readers to find the culprit. Illinois’ The Daily Republican carried a story titled 'Tom Collins still among us' in June 1874.

"This individual kept up his nefarious business of slandering our citizens all day yesterday. But we believe that he succeeded in keeping out of the way of his pursuers. In several instances he came well nigh being caught, having left certain places but a very few moments before the arrival of those who were hunting him. His movements are watched to-day with the utmost vigilance."

Reports of false sightings and predictions on the next move of Collins filled the pages of newspapers. No one knows for sure at what time barmen in New York decided to cash in on this public craze over the imaginary character. Soon it became a routine. Enraged people who barged into the drinking holes asking for Tom Collins were treated to a special cocktail by the name you-guess-what.

"Any Tom Collins here?"

"Yes," the barman would say and fix a drink that would help chill any soul boiling with indignation. "Here's your Tom Collins."

How to fix the drink

That is how the legendary cocktail was born.

The hoax has passed on to even popular culture. You can find songs in the Library of Congress dedicated to the incident. This is how Tom Collins is My Name goes:

“Tom Collins” wants to see you! He says, “You are a beat!”
“Tom Collins!” Don’t you know him! ’Tis you he wants to meet!
In here just a moment since he’s down on you, that’s sure!

He just went round the corner, into that other store.

The first Tom Collins recipe was printed in the Bartender's Guide published in 1874 by Jerry Thomas, widely considered as the father of American mixology.

Another cocktail named John Collins existed before the time, which he now changed to Tom Collins for his book. The drink soon became popular in the bars in and around New York.

So how do you fix the drink?

The Tom Collins is a cocktail made with gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and plain soda water.

Here's the recipe:

(use small bar-glass)

Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup

Juice of a small lemon

1 large wine-glass of Gin

2 to 3 lumps of ice;

Shake well and strain into a large bar-glass. Fill up the glass with plain soda water and imbibe while it is lively.

Tom Collins is a delightful drink to beat the summer. So be prepared to welcome the heat.

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog — A Cup of Kavitha — introducing world poetry to Malayalis. The views expressed here are personal.)
Manu Remakant
first published: Jan 16, 2021 12:53 pm

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