The John Collins is a tasty bourbon sour drink that is perfect for any occasion. It makes an excellent everyday sipper that can be poured in just a few minutes. It is also a nice way to show off your favorite whiskey in simple, refreshing style.
This is, essentially, a tall version of the Whiskey Sour. Other than the soda and ice (and maybe a few tweaks here and there), the collins and sour are practically the same drink. This makes it very easy to remember both of these popular recipes, which all bartenders should know how to mix.
You really cannot go wrong with any bourbon in the John Collins. Choose your favorite or go with one with a big, bold flavor. Basil Hayden's, Wild Turkey, and Dry Fly Washington Bourbon 101 are three great options you might consider, though any whiskey will do.
- Pour the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup into a collins glass filled with ice cubes.
- Stir thoroughly.
- Top with club soda.
- Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.
You can also shake this drink. To do so, secure a mixing tin on top of the glass and give the mix a quick shake prior to adding the soda.
More Tips for Making a Great John Collins
Bourbon is often preferred for the John Collins though it can be made with other styles of whiskey as well.
Canadian, rye, and blended whiskies are all popular options.
Irish whiskey is another possibility and you will want to be very selective if you want to use Scotch. A good blended Scotch like Dewar's may be best because it is a little more neutral than many of the other brands, particularly single malts.
In all 'Collins' drinks, there are two basic options for creating the sour component.
- Make it with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup as in the recipe above.
- Replace those two ingredients with a fresh-made sour mix (or commercial sour that is available at most liquor stores).
To keep a nice balance in the drink, it really is best to use fresh-squeezed lemon juice. By separating the sweet and sour, you have more control. You'll want that, especially as you experiment with whiskies because you can adjust the two elements to fit the liquor you're pouring at the moment.
How Strong is the John Collins
Estimating the strength of a highball like the John Collins is difficult because the amount of soda poured is the unknown. On average, 2 ounces of soda is used to fill the glass, though this can be more or less given the bartender's pour style and size of the glass.
If we use an 80-proof whiskey and count on 2 ounces of soda, then the John Collins would have an alcohol content of around 11% ABV (22 proof). If you would like it a little weaker or stronger, add more soda or whiskey accordingly.
Continue Exploring the Collins Family
There are many 'Collins' drinks that vary due to the base liquor used and all of them are good drinks to memorize.
To remember the difference between the John and Tom Collins, I think of "John" as the macho whiskey drinker (also the Jimmy Dean song "Big Bad John") and associate "Tom" with Old Tom Gin.
The Vodka Collins is an easy one to remember because the liquor of choice is right there in the name. Similarly, you can recall that the Juan Collins has a tequila base because Juan is the Spanish equivalent to the name John.
The Collins formula is easy to remember:
- 1 1/2 parts Base Liquor
- 1 part Sour
- 1/2 part Sweet
- Topped with Soda
- Served over ice in a highball glass
Of course, those ratios will change slightly based on the spirit, but this will get you close.
From there, you can add ingredients to any collins recipe to come up with an entirely new drink. For instance, the American Collins add bing cherries and blueberries to the Tom Collins and the Lavender Sapphire Collins opts for a lavender-infused syrup. Come spring, you definitely have to try the Rhubarb Collins featuring a fresh rhubarb syrup against a gin background (though whiskey is fun as well).
Take your collins experience from there. The possibilities are endless and it's a ton of fun to see what you can come up with.