John Collins – Classic 1882 Harry Johnson Recipe

John Collins vs. Tom Collins And The History Of All The Different Collins

While probably not invented by Harry Johnson, his 1882 Bartenders Manual is the oldest printed book I could find to mention the Collins cocktail. There are many sources that say it was invented in 1814 at Limmer’s Old House in London but who really knows. There is no documentation of this and all the sources that state this seem to circularly reference each other. The oldest concrete evidence of this cocktail I can find is the Harry Johnson one. It seems both the John Collins and Tom Collins are invented around the same time and the Bartenders Manual gives a pretty definitive recipe for both the John and Tom Collins. His John Collins recipe calls for genever (dry gin doesn’t really start to get mixed into cocktails till the end of the 1800s/early 1900s) and his recipe for the Tom Collins calls for Old Tom gin. Harry Johnson’s collins recipes and names are clearly defined, but unlike Harry Johnson, Jerry Thomas’s 1887 Bartenders Guide does not follow his recipes. The Bartender’s Guide doesn’t even mention the John Collins but instead uses the name Tom Collins for every variation of the collins. It has 3 different recipes for the Tom Collins. A Tom Collins whiskey, a Tom Collins brandy, and a Tom Collins genever. It doesn’t mention the Tom Collins with Old Tom gin at all and call the one made with genever a Tom Collins too.

To Further complicate this in 1885 a British cocktail book called “The New guide for the hotel, bar, restaurant, butler, and chef” by Bacchus and Cordon Bleu has a recipe for what they call a Fred Collins. Their Fred Collins Recipe is basically a Whiskey Collins with orange liqueur instead of simple syrup. Their Collins section states “I should be glad if our caterers would agree what it is to be perpetually named. One Barkeeper calls it a John Collins – another Tom Collins. There are also Harry and Fred, all members of the same family.” They then go on to say they prefer the Fred Collins name, Thus lends credence to Jerry Thomas’s version of the Collins in that the name is more a style than a specific drink. Hell there was a Harry Collins we have never seen. The Savoy Cocktail Book does the same thing and has both a Dry Gin and Whiskey Tom Collins. Although The Savoy does say that a Tom Collins made with genever is instead called a John Collins.

While The Harry Johnson uses the names as specific cocktails, the Bartenders guide and others seemed to use the collins as a cocktail structure more than a specific recipe. Similar to the Rickey, Daisy, or Fizz, the collins is used to describe a structure of 2 parts base spirit, 1 part citrus, 1 part sweetener, and 4 or 5 parts carbonated beverage. Harry Johnson influence has been permanent and the collins is ultimately both. It is both a specific cocktail like Harry Johnson pushed and a cocktail archetype like others believed. looking at its influence as an archetype there are many popular cocktails which are structurally a collins that you would not think of as a Collins. The Adios Motherfucker, Mojito, French 75, Paloma, etc, are all just fun variation on the Collins form.

The Classic Genever John Collins

The classic genever John Collins is one of the best. While the John Collins made with dry gin is very refreshing and has a bright lemon flavor, the John Collins made with genever still has a nice clean lemon taste but it also has a little bit of a mellow aged oak flavor. kinda like its halfway between a collins made with gin and a collins made with whiskey. Genever is a very under appreciated and under utilized spirit that is worth exploring.


John Collins – Original Genever Recipe

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






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Learn how to make the a classic John Collins.


  • 1 oz Lemon Juice

  • 1 oz Simple Syrup

  • 2 oz Genever

  • 5 oz Soda Water


  • Combine all ingredients except for the soda water in a shaker with ice.
  • Vigorously shake till the shaker is ice cold and frosted.
  • Pour into the serving glass.
  • Lastly add the soda water.

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