February 3, 2012

Cocktail 101: Tom Collins

One interesting discussion about critics, might it be for food, music, art, one often can find in blogs or newspapers circles around the question how much in depth knowledge do they need to be respected critics. There is little doubt that nearly everybody can recognize and enjoy a great meal, painting or piece of music but does it also encompass a deeper understanding of it ? Is it necessary to play an instrument to truly appreciate a musical composition or have an interest in cooking to really enjoy great dinners ? For us the interest in cooking and restaurants always went hand in hand and both benefited from each other. Cooking all the time at home really gives us a good understanding about techniques, flavors, ingredients and how they work together in any kind of dish whereas restaurant visits show us what is possible in the professional culinary world which again also influences how we cook at home. Over the years it also pushed us to try new things at home like charcuterie and cheese making as we wanted to replicate those creations we enjoyed at many places.

If somebody reads this blog on a regular basis it will be quite obvious that we often enjoy to start our dinners with a cocktail before we even start to look on the menu. And we also often end up winding down the night after a relaxed dinner with a late night cocktail at a nearby bar. But over time we also realized that different than when we read a regular restaurant menu where just glancing over the ingredient list gives us a good idea about the flavors of the final dish, reading a cocktail menu was quite different and that we lacked the knowledge about many of the spirits. So what better way to learn about and diving into the world of cocktails than by starting to build up our own cocktail bar and start making our own cocktails at home. One of the very first cocktails we tried was a Tom Collins.

The Tom Collins cocktail has a long history as it was first mentioned by Jerry Thomas, “the father of American mixology”, in 1876 and is a drink similar to the Gin Fizz with the difference of a larger amount of lemon juice, essentially making the Tom Collins a gin with sparkling lemonade. Originally a Tom Collins was made with Holland gin but by the end of the 19th century Old Tom gin (which some believe also accounts for the name of the cocktail), a lightly sweetened version of gin was used, whereas today a dry gin is preferred. Tom Collins is an ideal drink to get used to the floral, herbaceous flavor of gin as the inclusion of sugar and lemon tends to smooth out those flavor components. The Tom Collins with its proximity to lemonade is predestinated as a refreshing summer drink.

Add gin to tall glass, three-quarters filled with ice cubes

Add freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add sugar syrup

Top glass of with soda water, stir and decorate the glass with a slice of lemon

Recipe adapted from “500 Cocktails”

Serves 1

60 ml (2 fl oz) Gin
30 ml (1 fl oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar syrup
Ice cubes
Soda water
Lemon slice


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