A Tom Collins is a classic — and one that’s pretty much idiot-proof. Shake three easily acquired ingredients, strain, add soda water, grab a straw, and drink. The beauty of that simplicity isn’t only that you can enjoy one with little work. It’s also that you can go Mad Scientist with the ingredients and almost guarantee you won’t blow anything up.
In fact, there’s a whole family of Collins drinks, including John, Michael, and Phil. Try all the recipes from Gates Otsuji, chef de bar for The Standard, below and see which family member is your favorite. Watch out for Tom, though — nobody really knows where he came from. Some say it evolved out of the Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874, while others claim a London bartender named John Collins created the drink.
Those who credit the Brit say he worked at Limmer’s Hotel, which was famous for its gin punch. John came up with a twist on the punch that became popular itself, and eventually British soldiers brought it to the U.S. But, because Americans love to bastardize everything, they preferred to make the drink with sweeter Old Tom gin (rather than London gin), and hence they christened the cocktail “Tom Collins.”
Here are six versions you absolutely must try at home: