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With the first recorded recipe published in the second edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide in 1876, the Tom Collins is often linked to a hoax that was making the rounds at the time, wherein the patrons of a bar would inform a fellow drinker that a boisterous man named Tom Collins was saying slanderous things about him at a bar down the street. Sufficiently enraged, the duped fellow would rush off to confront the nonexistent Collins while the pranksters shared a laugh at their friend’s expense. Jokes aside, cocktail historian David Wondrich attributes the drink’s creation to John Collins, head waiter of the Limmer’s Hotel in London in the 1820s and ’30s, whose gin punch was similar to the recipe we know today. A few decades later, as American drinkers developed a taste for Old Tom gin, the John Collins became Tom Collins. Regardless of etymology, the classic Collins remains a quintessential summer drink. Tall and fizzy, tart and refreshing, the simple build of gin, fresh lemon juice, sweet syrup and soda offers the perfect template for flavor experimentation. Scroll through the gallery above to start your own mixing adventures.

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