Limmer’s was an evening resort for the sporting world; in fact, it was a midnight Tattersall’s, where you heard nothing but the language of the turf, and where men with not very clean hands used to make up their books. Limmer’s was the most dirty hotel in London; but in the gloomy, comfortless coffee-room might be seen many members of the rich squirearchy, who visited London during the sporting season. This hotel was frequently so crowded that a bed could not be obtained for any amount of money; but you could always get a very good plain English dinner, an excellent bottle of port, and some famous gin punch.
This is Captain Rees Howell Grownow’s recollection of the Limmer’s Hotel as it was in 1814 and it is information that I’ve glossed over before in previous TIPS because we’re revisiting a drink that has been featured not once but twice before.
As noted before, that famous gin punch up there was being made by the head bartender at Limmer’s, the one and only John Collins. It’s tough to say if the gin punch was what we now think of as the John/Tom Collins, as a written recipe or menu has not yet surfaced. All we can say for sure is that by 1862, Jerry Thomas was making it, and his recipe looked something like this:
- 1 tsp sugar
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 oz Gin
- 6 oz Club Soda
Shake up or stir up with ice. Add a slice of lemon peel to finish.
Since we’ve talked about this drink 3 times and since this surely won’t be the last, I want to take just a minute to REALLY geek out about the procedure of making this drink. This might seem dumb, but I’m a nerd and I think that procedure is important.
Number 1 is that at the time that John Collins made it, and probably Jerry Thomas as well, the gin in use would have either been Hollands or Old Tom gin. Both are a bit maltier and sweeter than the London Dry Gin that is popular in the drink today. I recommend that at some point in time, you try it the old way. Old Tom has become easier to find than it once was. Tanqueray makes something similar called Malacca, Hayman’s makes an Old Tom, I’m sure you can find various others at a quality liquor store near you (probably not going to find it at a small corner store. You’ll have to go somewhere with a slightly better selection.)
Number 2, Jerry Thomas says you can shake or stir the drink. In later revisions of his book (Historically it’s unclear whether Jerry himself was behind the revisions or not, it might have been an editor), Jerry changes his tune a bit, and and says that the drink should be shaken and strained. Someone chimed in last time I posted this, and said that’s definitely how it should be done, and I can understand why, but I’d like to go over why I disagree.
Typically, when a cocktail has juice or other non-spirit ingredients, like lime or lemon or orange or egg or sometimes cream, you usually shake the drink. The reason is as follows: when you shake a drink, you aerate it, infusing the drink with tiny air bubbles, so when the drink hits your tongue, all the flavor doesn’t hit it simultaneously. The little air bubbles cause the flavors to dance over your tongue, and thus give a softer flavor than if the drink was stirred, and thus not aerated.
If you don’t believe that shaking makes a difference, try making two daiquiris side by side. Stir one and shake the other, and then do a taste test. You will absolutely taste the difference. The stirred drink will be exceedingly tart and overly sweet. The shaken drink will be well balanced and pleasant.
Considering that a Tom Collins has lemon juice in it, you might think that it also requires shaking, BUT, there are two key differences between collins drinks and other cocktails: One, is that collins have carbonated soda added to them, which adds far more effervescence than any amount of shaking could provide. Two, is that collins drinks are perhaps some of the tallest cocktails you can order. The glass is tall, straight, and narrow. Like a champagne flute, this provides an ideal environment for the CO2, since the small surface area keeps more fizz in the drink for longer. It also means that a collins takes a while to drink. It is meant to be sipped over a duration of time, which means that over time, that ice is going to melt, and dilute the drink. One reason for shaking a drink may be to aerate it, but the other two reasons are to chill the beverage and dilute it slightly with the ice. With a large drink like the collins, chill isn’t a worry, neither is dilution, and because of the CO2 we aren’t worried about flavors belly flopping on our tastebuds.
I say you build a collins in the glass, following these steps:
- Add juice, gin and sugar to an empty collins glass, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Speed up this process by using simple syrup rather than granulated sugar.
- Fill the glass the rest of the way with cubed iced.
- Top the drink with soda water.
- Gently stir the drink with a straw. Don’t overdo it, since stirring will accelerate the carbonation loss.
- Garnish with a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry.
Irish coffee with whipped cream.
As many bbq ribs as you can eat.