John Collins: The Whiskey Highball Recipe You Need to Try

Popular John Collins Whiskey Cocktail
A favorite whiskey highball, the John Collins is easy and refreshing, perfect for any occasion. imagenavi / Getty Images
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The John Collins is a tasty bourbon sour drink that is perfect for any occasion. It makes an excellent everyday sipper that can easily be poured in just a few minutes and it is a nice way to show off your favorite whiskey in simple, refreshing style.

This is a tall version of the Whiskey Sour. Other than the soda and ice (and maybe a few tweaks), the collins and sour are essentially the same drink. This makes it very easy to remember both of these popular drinks, 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 personal favorites.

What You'll Need

How to Make It

  1. Pour the bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar syrup into a collins glass filled with ice cubes.
  2. Stir thoroughly.
  3. Top with club soda.
  4. 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 would make a great base for this cocktail.

Irish whiskey is another option and you will want to be very selective if you would like to use Scotch. I would recommend a good blended Scotch like Dewar's because it is a little more neutral in flavor than many of the other brands, particularly single malts.

In all 'Collins' drinks there are two basic options for creating the sour component.

  1. Made with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup as in the recipe above.
  2. 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, I would recommend using fresh-squeezed lemon juice. The average lemon yields about 1 3/4-2 ounces.

How Strong is the John Collins

Estimating the strength of a highball like the John Collins is difficult because the soda measurement is the unknown. On average, 2 ounces of soda would be 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.

More 'Collins' Cocktails

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 I associate 'Tom' with Old Tom Gin.

Think of the Collins as:

  • 1 1/2 part Base Liquor
  • 1 part Sour
  • 1/2 part Sweet
  • Filled 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.

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