You know you’re onto a good thing when two countries argue vociferously over who gets the credit for a culinary creation. Take, for instance, the humble Tom Collins; a classic cocktail in the truest sense, comprising only gin, lemon and sugar.
The UK and the US have been snarking each other silly for decades, each party stating with absolute certainty that their countrymen are responsible for its genius. We Brits (including famed cocktail historian David Wondrich) like to think the brew was named after one John Collins, a waiter at Limmer’s Old House on London’s Hanover Square. Indeed, a recipe for the drink appears in the Steward and Barkeeper’s Manual of 1869, and Jerry Thomas’ 1877 Bon Vivant’s Companion.
Our cousins across the pond, however, prefer to link its origins to the Tom Collins hoax of 1874, where people (before the days of internet trolling and cat memes, you understand) would walk into a bar, ask a bystander if they’d “seen Tom Collins?”, and proceed to inform the stranger that TC was talking smack about them and was hiding out in a nearby bar. The idea being, that said stranger would storm off to a local bar, and ask “has anyone seen Tom Collins?” and on and on it goes.
Kudos to the Americans for their sense of humour, but we value written proof and the stamp of approval from booze historians. So we’ll say that the Tom Collins is a British invention.
But what’s all the fuss about? Why are the UK and the US fighting over this simple little drink? How good can gin, lemon and sugar taste?
Very. So good, in fact, that Drambuie Brand Ambassador Freddy May has whipped up his own version of the vintage drink, in homage to its simplicity: a honey-sweetened, aromatic blend of herbs and spirit, all candy-coated summer bubbles on a sweltering summer day.
“A Tom Collins is classic, but it can still give you a lemon pucker face after a couple,” he says, “so I created a pimped-up version, where the honey in the Drambuie adds sweetness.”
Drambuie? Wait, isn’t this meant to be a gin cocktail?
“Drambuie is one of the best kept cocktail secrets,” May says. “It adds several ingredients in one go: a spirit in the form of whisky, sweetness in the Scottish honey and an ancient recipe of herbs and spices.”
“My twist also adds some fresh mint leaves, which lift some of the herbal flavours in the Drambuie. I have a mild obsession with mint and honey, so this drink has more layers than a traditional Collins.”
The Drambuie Collins (Serves 2)
2 lemon wedges
4 mint leaves
Soda water to top up
Chilled highball glass
Mint leaves, to garnish
“Drambuie is great, as it combines several ingredients. It’s a 40 per cent abv liqueur which works very well for cocktails, but if you prefer lower or no alcohol, you can make a syrup with real 100 per cent EU honey and a splash of strong tea.
“You’ll also need a zippy carbonated water. I have no brand preference except avoiding sparkling mineral water. I like to use smaller cans or bottles, but if you do use a larger plastic soda bottle, squeeze out the air before storing. This equalises the pressure between the water and remaining air to lose less fizz. Cold water holds CO2 better and will lose less carbonation so store it in the fridge.”
- Add a couple of cubes of ice to each glass, along with two mint leaves.
- Squeeze a lemon wedge into each glass, dropping the wedge into the glass when juiced.
- Add the Drambuie to both drinks, and, using a cocktail stirrer, stir until the liquor, lemon juice and mint is fully combined.
- Top up each glass with soda water, and garnish with the remaining mint leaves.
From Delicious To Stratospheric
“If you consider yourself a bit of a bartender, you can turn this into a version of a Ramos Fizz. In a sturdy container, add the Drambuie, lemon juice, mint leaves, a few ice cubes and one medium size egg white. Take a hand blender to it and pour in a tablespoon of single cream. When you top this with soda, it will be like a beautiful fresh creamy meringue.”