John Collins cocktail

John Collins

By Timo Torner / Last updated on May 10, 2022 
A John Collins is a sour cocktail based on Gin, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water. The drink usually is served on ice in a Collins glass, named after the cocktail itself.

Collins cocktails are available in a large number of variants. But it all started with just two of them - The John Collins and the Tom Collins. Besides those two buddies, both based on Gin, more related drinks have joined the family over time.

These days, drinks like the Joe Collins (based on Vodka), Colonel Collins (based on Bourbon), Mike Collins (based on Irish Whiskey), Pedro Collins (based on white Rum), Pierre Collins (based on Brandy / Cognac), and many more are part of the Collins family. Thereby, the recipe template always stays the same: base spirit, sugar, lemon juice, and carbonated water.

But back to the main act: if you now want to know more about the history of the drink and how you make this beautiful cocktail at home, you came to the right place. And you can also learn more about the difference between a John Collins and a Tom Collins.

History of the John Collins cocktail

The history of the cocktail is hazy. But it is tightly connected to that of the Tom Collins. A reason why many do mix up both drinks. So it's time to shed some light on this mystery.

A widespread and popular story is that the drink got created by a bartender named like the cocktail. This John Collins is believed to have served guests in a London Hotel called the Limmer's Old House. This establishment was a popular hotel and coffee house in London's Mayfair district from 1790 - 1817. A limerick by Charles and Frank Sheridan makes this story immortal:

"My name is John Collins, head waiter at Limmer's,

Corner of Conduit Street, Hanover Square,

My chief occupation is filling brimmers

For all the young gentlemen frequenters there."

Charles and Frank Sheridan

That would suggest that the origin of the drink must be before 1817. However, the first time the cocktail appeared in written form was more than 50 years later, in 1869, when the Steward and Barkeeper's Manual decided to feature the John Collins. 

A few years later, Jerry Thomas modified the recipe using Old Tom Gin as a base and published it under Tom Collins in his book. So the Tom Collins is named after its base spirit.

The John Collins drink originally contained Jenever, a Gin variant from the Netherlands, as the base spirit. And cocktail historian David Embury once explained that "The original Collinses were always made with gin but, strangely enough, never with London dry gin."  Funnily enough, today, a John Collins cocktail is often made with London Dry Gin while the Tom Collins still relies on Old Tom Gin.

Difference to other Gin cocktails

The difference between Tom Collins and John Collins is solely the type of Gin used in the recipe. But there are other closely related Gin cocktails like the Gin Fizz, Gin Sour, and the Gin and Tonic.

The difference to a Gin Sour is that the John Collins strictly is made without egg white. And it contains soda water which makes for a more refreshing, almost lemonade-like drink.

Opposed to that, a Gin Fizz uses exactly the same ingredients as a John Collins. The difference here is in the details. A Gin Fizz is chilled while shaken with plenty of ice. The resulting drink then should be served in a chilled glass without ice. A John Collins, and all other Collins cocktails, are served on ice. Also, the size of the drinks varies. While a typical Gin Fizz only consists of 8 ounces of liquid, the John Collins ranges between 14 to 16 ounces.

A Gin and Tonic, however, is something completely different. The G&T is a typical Highball drink consisting of only two ingredients - Gin and tonic water.

John Collins cocktail

John Collins

A sour and refreshing Gin cocktail served on ice.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: British
Keyword: Gin
Servings: 1
Cost: $3.50


  • 2 oz London Dry Gin
  • 0.75 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz Simple syrup
  • 1.5 oz Chilled soda water


  • Add the Gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup into your cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.
    2 oz London Dry Gin, 0.75 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice, 0.5 oz Simple syrup
  • Shake until the drink is well-chilled and strain over ice into a Collins glass.
  • Top up with ice-cold soda water.
    1.5 oz Chilled soda water
  • Optionally garnish with citrus peel and Maraschino cherry.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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