What’s the difference between a Tom Collins and a gin and tonic?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

A Tom Collins is a classic cocktail that is similar to a gin and tonic but with a few key differences. The main distinction lies in the choice of mixer. While a gin and tonic uses tonic water, a Tom Collins swaps it out for soda water, resulting in a lighter and more refreshing drink.

The Tom Collins is believed to have originated in the 19th century and has stood the test of time as a beloved cocktail. Its name is said to be derived from the Old Tom style of gin that was commonly used in the drink’s early days.

To make a Tom Collins, you typically start with a base of gin, just like a gin and tonic. The gin provides the primary flavor profile and sets the tone for the drink. However, the choice of gin can vary depending on personal preference. There are countless brands and styles of gin available, each with its own unique botanical blend.

Next comes the addition of lemon juice, which adds a bright and citrusy element to the cocktail. The lemon juice provides a tartness that balances out the sweetness and enhances the overall freshness of the drink. It is typically freshly squeezed for the best flavor, but bottled lemon juice can also be used in a pinch.

Simple syrup, a mixture of sugar and water, is then added to sweeten the cocktail. This helps to round out the flavors and create a well-balanced drink. The amount of simple syrup can be adjusted based on personal taste preferences, with some preferring a sweeter Collins and others opting for a more tart version.

Once the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup are combined, the mixture is poured over ice in a Collins glass. This tall and slender glass is named after the cocktail itself and is perfect for showcasing the drink’s vibrant colors and effervescence.

Soda water is added to the glass, filling it to the top. This is what sets the Tom Collins apart from the gin and tonic. The soda water provides a light and bubbly texture, creating a refreshing and thirst-quenching beverage. It enhances the citrus and botanical notes of the gin without overpowering them, resulting in a well-balanced and easy-drinking cocktail.

In terms of garnish, a Tom Collins is traditionally adorned with a lemon twist and a maraschino cherry. The lemon twist adds a touch of aromatic citrus oil to the drink, while the cherry adds a pop of color and a hint of sweetness.

The main difference between a Tom Collins and a gin and tonic lies in the choice of mixer. While both cocktails feature gin as the base spirit, a Tom Collins uses soda water instead of tonic water. This substitution creates a lighter and more refreshing drink, perfect for those hot summer days or when you’re in the mood for a crisp and citrusy twist on a classic G&T.