Over the past two weeks, the weather in Alabama has ranged from snowy and cold to severe thunderstorms and highs in the 70s. Since we’re quite confused about whether to turn on the heat or air conditioning, I thought it would be a great time to feature a cocktail named for a troublemaker — the Tom Collins.
Cocktail historians will tell you that this drink was named for a 19th century bartender, a prank that shares his name or both. The prank was pretty simple: a mischievous chap would pick a target and convince him that a fellow named Tom Collins was either looking for him or had been taking full advantage of him. It was such a popular gag that the height of its popularity has been dubbed the Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874.
Some commerce-minded bartender proceeded to name a drink after the hoax. After that point, unsuspecting victims who barged into pubs clamoring for Tom Collins would find themselves served a rather delicious beverage. Credit for the drink’s creation is where the story gets murky. Many sources give this honor to John Collins, a waiter from London’s Limmer’s Old House. If the drink originally bore his name, it’s likely that the change came from substituting Old Tom gin for another style.
Though its exact origin may be unclear, the Tom Collins first appeared in Jerry Thomas’s 1876 The Bartender’s Guide. Since then, it’s become one of the most iconic and refreshing summer cocktails. Like the French 75, its light, fizzy, citrusy deliciousness is built around a potent base spirit that packs a wallop. As the Girl Scouts say, be prepared.
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz gin (preferably Old Tom gin)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake for 12-15 seconds or until cold. Strain into a chilled Collins glass over ice. Top with club soda or sparkling water to taste.
In the craft cocktail world, many drinks can fall under the umbrella of a single name. The Pimm’s Cup definitely belongs in this category, but it’s also special because the name only comes with two requirements: it must contain Pimm’s and it must be served in a cup. As a result, it’s rare to find two bars — or even two home bartenders — who make this libation the same way.
Many variations on this theme are tangy, sweet and refreshing. Originally, Pimm’s made six different liqueurs from different liquors that were infused with their proprietary blend of herbs, spices and juices. Due to changes in management and demand, Pimm’s No. 2 – 5 were discontinued about 40 years ago. Now, the only Pimm’s available in the U.S. is Pimm’s No. 1: a tea-colored, gin-based herbal liqueur.
This citrusy liqueur does well when combined with citrus, spice, berries or herbs. Thanks to its deep flavor, each of these different ingredients brings out unique qualities in its taste. Though the first Pimm’s cup is thought to have been created by a British bartender named Pimm’s, the historical record is entirely fuzzy on its origins. Historically, New Orleans and Britain have both claimed the Pimm’s cup as their quintessential drinks, so you should create your own house Pimm’s cup to suit your own taste.
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Add ice and shake for 12-15 seconds or until chilled through. Strain into a chilled Collin’s glass full of ice and top with ginger beer to taste.
Out of all the contentious drinks I’ve featured so far, the Ward 8 might just top them all. With at least three origin stories and hundreds of recipes, the diversity of its manifestations almost rivals the Old Fashioned’s. In fact, when a New York Sun writer called for readers to submit their Ward 8 recipes in the 1940s, he received more than 500 replies.
People get territorial over their whiskey cocktails.
According to the available mishmash of cocktail history, Boston was definitely the Ward 8’s birthplace. It was probably created within a decade of 1900, and is most likely named for one of the city’s voting districts. The most popular backstory is that it was created to celebrate a political boss’s election victory in north Boston, but this story seems to have originated in 1951. Other sources credit other bartenders who worked at the hotel where this alleged party occurred and yet others give credit to other venues.
The Ward 8 is a whiskey sour sweetened with grenadine. The use of orange juice and the amount of grenadine varies by recipe, but however it’s made, it usually turns out light, spicy and slightly dry. Since so many recipes for this beverage exist, I’m not going off the reservation by saying that if my recipe doesn’t suit your fancy, tweak it until it does.
1 tsp – .5 oz grenadine (to taste)
.5 oz lemon juice
.75 oz orange juice
2 oz whiskey
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin. Shake vigorously for 13-17 seconds or until cooled through and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
In much of the restaurant industry, “blender” is a curse word. They are not only loud, breakable and time-consuming, but also pretty much useless in classic recipes. Believe it or not, one such drink is the daiquiri.
Named for a Cuban beach, this beverage’s root date back to before the Spanish-American War. From there, its history gets hazy. Some sources suggest that the classic daiquiri’s proportions mimic the daily rations of rum, citrus and sugar given to British sailors, suggesting that their grog was a less refined version of this cocktail. Other stories suggest that, since sugar cane and lime are indigenous to Cuba, that it was a combination of available resources.
What we know for sure is that this drink — and many of its many variations — has served up inspiration for writers and artists of all kinds. Hemingway himself frequented Cuba’s La Florida (the self-proclaimed “Cradle of the Daiquiri”), and his drink made it into 1937’s Bar La Florida Cocktails as “The Henmiway Special.” Boasting translation skills on par with its spelling, this book is entertaining, but probably not the most reliable source.
After that point, the daiquiri became popular again in the 1940s and 1970s. Like many other cocktails, its most recognizable present form is actually a re-imagining from the 1960s/70s/80s that ratcheted up its sugar content to appeal to the public palate. Its most classic form, however, is a humble beverage that balances tart with sweet. Mix one up today to find out why it’s inspired countless variations.
2 oz white rum
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds or until cooled through. Strain and serve straight up.