John Collins Drink Recipe: The Classic Cocktail Guide


The John Collins cocktail is a refreshing classic that has quenched the thirst of patrons worldwide for well over a century. With its zesty blend of ingredients, this drink offers a balance of sweetness and tang, perfect for social gatherings or a relaxing evening. Known for its simplicity and elegance, the John Collins has earned its reputation as a timeless beverage, easily crafted and always enjoyed.

John Collins Drink Recipe

Composed primarily of bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda, the John Collins cocktail is both straightforward to make and delightful to taste. Its light and effervescent nature makes it an excellent choice for those who prefer their drinks not too sweet and not too strong. The drink’s garnish of citrus and cherry not only adds to its visual appeal but also its flavor profile, signifying the craftsmanship of classic mixology.

Key Takeaways

  • The John Collins is a timeless and refreshing cocktail with a perfect balance of flavors.
  • Simple ingredients like bourbon, lemon juice, and club soda define this classic drink.
  • Its visual appeal and flavor are enhanced by traditional garnishes.

Origins and History

The John Collins cocktail is a refreshing drink with a storied past that traces back to 19th-century London. It has evolved over time and is related to a family of similar beverages, including its more famous counterpart, the Tom Collins.

Early Recordings

The earliest mentions of the John Collins drink can be found in the mid-1800s. It originated in England and was named after a head waiter known as John Collins, who worked at Limrick in London. The drink’s original recipe typically included lemon juice, simple syrup, Old Tom gin, and soda water. This mixture was often referred to as a type of gin punch.

Tom Collins vs. John Collins

The John Collins and Tom Collins cocktails are frequently mixed up. The primary difference is the type of gin used: John Collins was traditionally made with Old Tom gin, which is slightly sweeter, while Tom Collins is made with drier London dry gin. The name Tom Collins first appeared in written form in the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas’ bartending guide, solidifying its place in cocktail history.

Notable Figures

Jerry Thomas, often called the “Father of American Mixology,” helped popularize the Tom Collins in the United States. Harry Johnson was another key figure, a pioneer in the bartending field who provided detailed instructions for making both Collins versions. Frank Sheridan, meanwhile, is credited with popularizing the John Collins while he was a head waiter at various establishments in London.

The legacy of the John Collins drink is a testament to the enduring popularity of classic cocktails and the bartenders, like John Collins himself, who crafted these refreshing mixes behind the bar.

Ingredients Breakdown

John Collins Recipe

The John Collins cocktail is a refreshing classic. It combines a few simple ingredients that create a well-balanced mix of flavors. Let’s take a closer look at each component.


The base of a John Collins is typically gin, a spirit known for its botanical flavors. For a standard drink, one might use about 1.5 to 2 ounces. The type of gin can alter the taste slightly, so one may choose according to their preference.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice adds a zestful tang to the cocktail. Using fresh lemon juice is crucial for getting that bright, crisp citrus note. It usually takes roughly 1 ounce.

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup sweetens the drink. It’s a solution of sugar and water, and for a John Collins, about ½ ounce should do. This balances out the acidity of the lemon juice.

Soda Water

A splash of soda water gives the John Collins its signature fizz. Generally, about 2 ounces are added, or it’s used to top off the drink, making it lively and effervescent.


To finish, garnishes like an orange slice, lemon wedge, or maraschino cherry are used not just for a pop of color but also to enhance the drink’s aroma and taste.

John Collins Recipe

The John Collins is a refreshing cocktail that combines bourbon, citrus, and sweetness, served in a Collins or highball glass. It’s perfect for whiskey lovers looking to enjoy a classic, fizzy drink.

Preparation Steps

  1. Gather Ingredients
    • 2 oz Bourbon
    • 1 oz Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed)
    • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
    • Club Soda
    • Ice Cubes
    • Garnishes: 1 Lemon Slice, 1 Maraschino Cherry
  2. Mixing the Drink
    In a cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Add ice cubes to the shaker until it’s halfway full.
  3. Shaking
    Secure the lid on the cocktail shaker and shake well until the outside of the shaker feels cold, typically about 15 seconds.
  4. Serving
    Fill a Collins glass or highball glass with ice cubes. Strain the shaken mixture into the glass. Top it off with club soda and gently stir to combine.

Serving Suggestions

  • Garnishes: Add a lemon slice to the rim of the glass and drop a maraschino cherry into the drink for a classic John Collins garnish.
  • Glassware: A traditional Collins glass or a highball glass is appropriate for this cocktail to appreciate the clarity and effervescence of the drink.

This cocktail can be adapted using different spirits such as genever, Irish whiskey, or even vodka for personalized variations. However, bourbon remains the tried-and-true base for a classic John Collins.

Variations of the Drink

The John Collins cocktail is a versatile drink with several popular variations. Each twist on the classic recipe offers a unique flavor using different spirits or additional ingredients.

Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is a refreshing classic made with London dry gin, tart lemon juice, sweet simple syrup, and topped with fizzy soda water. It’s often served with a slice of lemon and a cherry, providing a crisp and invigorating taste.

Whiskey Collins

In place of gin, the Whiskey Collins uses bourbon whiskey for a richer depth of flavor. It maintains the same sour profile as the original but with a distinct, bold whiskey undercurrent.

Vodka Collins

A Vodka Collins switches gin for vodka, offering a smoother and often lighter touch to the drink. It retains the drink’s refreshing taste but with vodka’s clean and subtle finish.

Other Twists

For those who like to experiment, Other Twists on the John Collins recipe can include:

  • Muddling fresh herbs such as basil for an aromatic touch.
  • Using genever in place of gin for a Dutch Collins.
  • Blending with champagne to create a French 75-style Collins.
  • Adding lime to mix up a Rickey version of the cocktail.

Each variant provides an exciting way to enjoy the classic Collins cocktail, catering to various palates and preferences.

Mixology Techniques

In the world of cocktails, the way ingredients are combined can make a big difference in taste and presentation. The John Collins cocktail is a classic that benefits from specific mixology techniques.

Shaking vs. Stirring

When preparing a John Collins, shaking is generally not required. However, for many cocktails, shaking in a cocktail shaker can blend flavors quickly and chill the drink. In contrast, stirring is a gentler technique used in the John Collins to preserve the carbonation of soda water and achieve a clear, well-balanced mixture.

  • Shake: Typically used with ingredients that are harder to mix such as cream or egg whites.
  • Stir: Ideal for spirit-forward cocktails like the John Collins, where clarity and texture are desired.

Muddling Ingredients

Muddling is not necessary for a John Collins. However, this technique is essential when cocktails require the infusion of fresh ingredients to release their flavors. Using a muddler, one can press herbs or fruits in the bottom of the glass to extract essential oils and flavors before other ingredients are added.

  • Muddle: Carefully press on herbs or fruits to avoid bitterness and to enhance the cocktail’s aroma.

Glassware and Ice

The choice of glassware and ice plays a significant role in the presentation and taste of a cocktail. A Collins glass or highball glass is traditionally used for a John Collins, allowing plenty of room for ice and soda.

  • Glass: A tall and slender Collins or highball glass keeps the drink cool and makes it easy to sip.
  • Ice: Use large, clear ice cubes that melt slowly to avoid diluting the cocktail too quickly.

Each mixology technique contributes to the creation of a refreshing and aesthetically pleasing John Collins cocktail.

Flavor Profile and Pairings

recipe for John Collins Drink

The John Collins cocktail elegantly harmonizes sweet and sour flavors, offering a refreshing experience ideal for sipping at a dinner party. Now, let’s explore the specific aspects of its flavor and potential pairings.

Sweet and Sour Balance

The flavor profile of a John Collins centers around the sweet-and-sour synergy created by lemon juice and simple syrup. A typical recipe calls for freshly squeezed lemon juice, which introduces a vibrant, tangy twist, while the simple syrup, made from dissolved sugar in water, adds a smooth, sweet counterpoint. This pairing ensures that each sip comes with a consistent punch of bold, yet balanced taste.

Food Pairings

When it comes to food, a John Collins pairs exceptionally well with:

  • Appetizers: Think light and salty bites like prosciutto-wrapped melon or a crisp bruschetta.
  • Main Courses: The drink’s zesty nature complements grilled chicken or seafood dishes beautifully.
  • Snacks: Nuts or mild cheeses can enhance the mingling of flavors while you sip and cheers.

Each pairing is chosen to enhance the cocktail’s refreshing quality and ensure that the flavors of both the drink and the dishes shine.

Cocktail Pairings

Beyond food, a John Collins can be paired with other cocktails for a varied drink menu:

  • Fruit-Forward: Consider serving a sweet strawberry daiquiri to contrast the John Collins’ tartness.
  • Rich and Creamy: A White Russian could provide a heavier, creamy option alongside the lighter John Collins.

By thoughtfully selecting cocktails with distinct flavors, hosts can offer a well-rounded selection for every guest’s palate at their next dinner party.

Nutritional Information

recipe for John Collins

When one enjoys a John Collins cocktail, they should be aware of its alcohol content and the calories it contains. This knowledge can help them make informed decisions about consumption.

Alcohol Content

A typical John Collins is made with 2 fluid ounces of bourbon whiskey, which generally has an alcohol content of about 40% ABV (Alcohol by Volume), or 80 proof. This means that a single serving of the drink contains approximately 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol.

Caloric Considerations

The caloric content of a John Collins can vary, but a standard recipe might include:

  • Bourbon whiskey: 140 calories (for 2 oz)
  • Lemon juice: 8 calories (for 1 oz)
  • Simple syrup: 49 calories (for 1 teaspoon)
  • Club soda: 0 calories (for 2 oz)
  • Garnishes: Approximately 10 calories for an orange slice, lemon slice, and a maraschino cherry

Total: Approximately 207 calories per serving

While this cocktail contains vitamin C from the lemon juice, the amount is minimal. The drink does not significantly contribute to the daily intake of calcium, potassium, or sodium.

Garnish and Presentation

John Collins Drink Recipe

The garnish and presentation of a John Collins can transform it from a simple mix to a visual and flavorful delight. The contrast between the vibrant garnish and the subtle color of the drink itself makes each sip a treat for the senses.

Choosing the Right Garnish

Garnishes are essential in enhancing the look and flavor of the John Collins. Time-tested garnishes include a maraschino cherry and an orange slice. However, for a more luxurious twist, a Luxardo maraschino cherry adds sophistication. If one aims to evoke a sense of Irish whimsy, hinting at a Limerick, include a lemon wedge as a nod to the citrusy notes found in the poetry and the drink.

  • Standard Garnish Choices:
    • Maraschino cherry
    • Orange slice
  • Upgraded Garnish Options:
    • Luxardo maraschino cherry
    • Lemon wedge

Presentation Techniques

Presentation is more than just a final touch; it’s an opportunity to enhance the drinking experience. When preparing a John Collins, place ice in the glass first, followed by the liquid components. Stirring gently is crucial for an even blend without disturbing the carbonation. For the grand finish, artfully place the chosen garnish on top. The orange slice can rest on the rim, while the maraschino cherry is dropped in, allowing guests to discover it as they enjoy their beverage.

  • Steps for Presenting a John Collins:
    1. Glass filled with ice
    2. Pour and stir drink mixture
    3. Garnish on top or rim

Cultural Significance

The John Collins cocktail has touched various aspects of culture, from its appearance in literature to becoming a worldwide refreshment enjoyed across many countries.

In Literature and Films

The John Collins has been mentioned in books and movies, showing its mark on entertainment. Readers might find it in a scene at a fancy bar or during a quiet moment in a story. The drink’s presence adds a touch of class and history, as it dates back to the 19th century. It’s a drink that characters in films might order to show sophistication or a cool nature.

Global Popularity

This classic cocktail has crossed borders and seas, making it a favorite in many places. The mix of gin, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water creates a refreshing beverage that people around the world enjoy. From Europe to the Americas, the John Collins has become a symbol of the enduring appeal of Collins cocktails. They appreciate its simplicity and the way it can be both casual and elegant, perfect for any occasion.

Frequently Asked Questions

John Collins Recipe

In this section, readers will find answers to common inquiries about the John Collins cocktail, from ingredients to its history and variations.

What are the traditional ingredients of a John Collins cocktail?

A John Collins typically consists of bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda. This combination is served over ice and often garnished with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. For more about how to make the perfect John Collins, visit CocktailWave.

How does a Tom Collins differ from a John Collins?

The primary difference between a Tom Collins and a John Collins is the type of liquor used. A Tom Collins is made with gin, while a John Collins traditionally uses bourbon. For details on the classic Tom Collins, see MasterClass.

Can you use different types of alcohol in a John Collins drink, such as vodka or gin?

While the original recipe calls for bourbon, people can certainly use other types of alcohol like vodka or gin to create their own version of a John Collins. Each type of spirit will offer a unique flavor profile to the drink. Visit The Mixer for insight on the flexibility of this cocktail.

What is the history behind the naming of the John Collins cocktail?

The John Collins cocktail is believed to be named after a headwaiter who worked at Limmer’s Old House, a London hotel and coffee house in the 19th century. The drink’s popularity and story have even made their way into Allrecipes.

Is there a difference between a Whiskey Sour and a John Collins, and if so, what sets them apart?

Yes, there is a difference—the Whiskey Sour is made without any soda water, resulting in a stronger taste, whereas the John Collins is topped with club soda which gives it a lighter, more effervescent quality. For an in-depth comparison, check out MixologyHQ.

Are there any notable variations of the John Collins cocktail served on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean?

Cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, often serve variations of classic cocktails like the John Collins, sometimes adding unique twists such as flavored syrups or exotic garnishes to enhance the cruising experience.