I have to feel a touch sad for William Henry, since the tragic events of his childhood simultaneously forced him to become a well regarded and brilliant scientist yet also seemingly forced his hand toward his eventual suicide. As a child he was involved in a bad accident, the details of which I couldn’t find, probably got kicked by a mule, or knocked off a stage coach or fell down a well, the kind of thing that happens to boys in the late 18th century. Regardless of what it was, it caused him to be a rather short man by stunting his growth and also lead him to have great pains due to nerve damage. The former kept him from being a doctor because of his stature I suppose, which forced him to direct his curiosity instead to a more solitary practice of chemistry. Most of what he studies was gases, and particularly, their solubility in water, some of his findings are known today as Henry’s Law (or more accurately, the Henry coefficient). The idea is this: Given the same temperature and atmospheric pressure, the amount of a gas that will dissolve into water, will equal the amount of gas available above the water.
Think of it this way, when you inject a bunch of Carbon Dioxide into water, you end up with a CO2 saturated liquid. If you leave that solution unpressurized, the water will release CO2 until the gas has come to an equilibrium with the surrounding air. If you seal that same carbonated liquid, the increased pressure above the liquid allows for a higher level of dissolved CO2 to remain. Some people prefer to call it the Henry coefficient due to the fact that when the temperature changes so does the Henry constant. Most of the time when the water is colder it will hold onto more of the CO2.
You already knew this. Hot soda goes flat very quickly. Cold soda lasts a bit longer.
Not only did you know it, but so did the head-waiter at Limmer’s, at the corner of Conduit St. at Hanover Square in London. His name was John Collins. You may have heard of him.
A little song was written about Old John, and many of the staff and regulars at Limmer’s back in the 1830’s. It went like this:
My name is John Collins head-waiter at Limmer’s
The corner of Conduit Street Hanover square
My chief occupation is filling of brimmers
To solace young gentlemen laden with care
Mrs Cole sells kid gloves for to go to the opera
Whilst Peter sits scratching his head at the bar
And Henry I think should behave his self properer
Who’ll give on the sly a Havanna cigar
Our Peter he wished to be clerk at St George’s
But the Rector he said that those sorts of men
Who could callously view our young gentlemen’s orgies
Would be calling Coming instead of Amen
That he’d register marriage as Brandy and Water
And indecently enter a birth as a Go
And in short tho in Heav’n they have Peter for porter
Twas not that sort of Peter so he would not do
My ale cup’s the best that ever you tasted
Mr Frank always drinks my gin punch when he smokes
I can carve every joint that ever was basted
And give you a wrinkle or two on the Oaks
I’m old but I m hearty I m grey but I m merry
I don t wish to go and few wish me gone
Shall I bring you a pint or a bottle of sherry
To drink the good health and long life of Old John
There’s Lewis Hicardo so full of bravado
And sweet Spencer Cowper a blond I declare
There’s profligate Punch who’s so fond of his lunch
And conkey Jim Howard who ne’er knows despair
Of the many things that can be taken from this (gentleman’s orgies notwithstanding) we know that John Collins had a Gin Punch, that was apparently a crowd favorite. We don’t know the original recipe, but after its propagation, it looks something like this:
THE JOHN COLLINS (or TOM)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp of super fine sugar
- 2 oz London Dry Gin
- 1 bottle of plain soda water
A few notes on the ingredients. That bottle of soda was small. Probably about 6 oz. The total drink should be about 12 oz with ice. To build the drink, pour the sugar, lemon juice and Gin into a Collins Glass, and stir until the sugar is dissolved (or save yourself a minute or two by using simple syrup. I’m not judging) Finish it off with the soda water, and garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.
You might also consider putting the sugar, gin and lemon juice into a shaker with ice, shaking, straining over ice, and then adding the soda. I’m sure there could be a considerable debate about the finer points of this, but it’s certainly a logical method.
What’s a bit interesting, is that after it crossed the pond, it was no longer known as John Collins, and instead, Jonathan had become Thomas.
Imagine you’re standing on a street corner in 1876. A schoolmate of yours approaches you, someone you barely know, and asks if you know Tom Collins. You don’t. “Well, he surely knows you. He was saying that you’re a dirt-eating piece of slime, a scum-sucking pig and the son of a motherless goat.” You, are rightfully angry. This gentleman tells you that Tom Collins is just around the corner at the pub, and if you hurry, you’ll be able to catch him.
It’s a really stupid prank, but apparently it worked. I guess people in the 1870’s were really gullible or something. I don’t mean to say that it worked on a few people. It worked on a lot of people. All across the entire United States. It was literally in the newspapers, dubbed ‘The Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874’…
Anyway, it only takes a few times for a bartender to get asked, “Is there a Tom Collins here?” before he starts answering, “Yes, it’ll be 25 cents”.
The grandfather, Jerry Thomas, first publishes his recipe for the Tom Collins in 1876, using Old Tom Gin, which would have been an apt substitution considering the hoax. Old Tom Gin was/is sweeter than London Dry, and if you’ve ever strayed away from Tom Collins because you don’t like Dry Gin, give it a try with Old Tom, and see if you like it any better. Tanqueray just released a nice version called “Malacca” that would work really well for this.
Scotch. Again. Honestly. You can just always assume that a good bottle of scotch with go well with Archer. It’s like peanut butter and bacon and Elvis’s mouth. They were made for each other.