A Tom Collins is a tall iced drink consisting of gin with lemon or lime juice, soda water, and sugar. As with most such mixed drinks, the origins of its name are far from clear. It is generally said to have been called after the barman who invented it, but the fact that in the earliest known references to such a drink—from Australia, in 1865—it goes under the name John Collins (a term now used when the gin is Hollands gin) casts some doubt on that explanation. Another theory links it with Old Tom, an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British colloquialism both for gin in general and for gin liberally sweetened with sugar: ‘When sweetened and diluted by the retailers gin is known as gin cordial or “Old Tom”’ (Thomas Allbutt, System of Medicine, 1897).
Since the mid-twentieth century the surname Collins has become a generic term for any spirit-based mixed drink of similar recipe—thus one can have a rum Collins, a brandy Collins, and so on.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.