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A Bad Name

May 29, 2011

One of the simplest and most refreshing summer quenchers has one of the worst names in the classic cocktail cannon. I suppose to the cocktail literati it makes sense. But to the ordinary Jane or Joe on the street it does nothing to convey the essence of the drink.

Just recently I tried the antithesis of this cocktail, and its name.

The Provencal cocktail evoked Provence in a glass. It was lavender infused Plymouth gin, mixed with a vermouth from Provence, Cointreau and a twist of orange zest. It was amazing, especially with a platter of house cured meats.

My summer quencher is much simpler. I promise.

For those who are just tuning in today for the first time in a while, let me take a moment to remind you I’m flying solo. Right now I’m on vacation in California while Mrs. Fussy is stoking the home fires. So if there is an errant comma, a run-on sentence, a typo, a gross misuse of a common word, or some other embarrassing gaffe, please forgive me.

This drink that I was mentioning is the Tom Collins. And it evokes just about nothing. Maybe some guy in golf pants, or perhaps it makes you think of an old man.

But at its best it’s simply a fizzy lemonade with gin.

A long, long time ago I wrote a post on this most noble of summer cocktails. Specifically it was way back in 2009, May 25 to be precise. And for the sake of convenience (both yours and mine) I’m going to repost it in its entirety below.

Hopefully you will consider making it a part of your holiday festivities. But mostly I think you should know about this drink, and I think that you should make an effort to try it soon. Enjoy.

It’s Summer. It’s Hot. You’re Thirsty.

There are plenty of people who are going to tell you how to throw a party, grill burgers, make side dishes and desserts.  There will be thousands of pages written about what beers to drink, what wines to serve, and which cocktails to prepare.

I have a whole laundry list of cocktail posts on my to-do list.  But since summer is upon us, they will just have to wait.

And frankly, I don’t really care if you serve this at your Memorial Day party or not.  It’s summer, and if you do not know about this quaffer, it’s damn time you learned.

There are several great refreshing cocktails.  But many of them have shortcomings.  They have too many ingredients, are too potent, or require too much effort.

There is the Margarita.  But that really improves with salt.  And then there is all the shaking involved.  When it’s hot, I don’t even want to hold a frozen Boston shaker if it means I have to exert more energy.  Plus they are so small and potent that it’s easy to get sideswiped by this classic.  The same goes for the Hemingway/La Florida Daiquiri.

The Pimm’s Cup is refreshing and much less potent, so you can drink it like a soft drink to beat the heat.  It is especially good for a party if you want to mix up a big batch in advance.  But there is a lot of vegetation to deal with, and then there are the two types of soda.

The drink I am talking about has gotten a bad reputation over the years.  Bartenders have taken liberties.  Mixes have been marketed for use at home.  Let’s try to put all that aside and start from scratch.  Because this is one of the easiest, tastiest, most refreshing quaffers you can make.

Allow me to reintroduce you to the Tom Collins.

Tall glass.  Lots of ice.  Two ounces of your favorite gin – mine is good old fashioned Tanqueray.  The juice from half a lemon.  One teaspoon of sugar syrup.  Fill with soda.  Stir.  Be refreshed.

On a side note: If you think you do not like gin, please, buy a little airplane bottle of something good, try it in this cocktail, and get back to me.  I am committed to getting people comfortable with gin.  It’s important.  And I’ll work with anyone who needs extra assistance.

The idea is an adult fizzy lemonade.  Depending on the size of your glass, you may want more or less gin, additional lemon, and possibly more sugar.  Personally I like a drier drink.  Mrs. Fussy thinks all my cocktails are too tart.  I think all of her salads are under-dressed.  Yet we continue to get along.

How this simple drink could ever have fallen off the rails with sickly sour mix or the lemon flavored soda sold in supermarkets as Collins mix is beyond me.

The observant may note that this simple classic drink is the grandfather to the Mojito.  Change the gin to rum.  Swap the lemon for a lime.  Muddle in some mint and you have it.  And the Mojito is certainly a lovely and refreshing drink.

But when it’s hot, muddling is a lot of work.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Stevo permalink
    May 29, 2011 7:21 am

    I love gin.

    I wanted to make mojitos a few days ago. And I was ready to go, fresh limes, mint etc. I call my brother up to invite him over for a glass or two and he says to me “oh yeah we just had some of those but we ran out of mix” Ugh!

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    May 29, 2011 10:21 am

    Mojitos are made with rum, Stevo.

    • Stevo permalink
      May 30, 2011 8:30 am

      Right, my statement about gin was not related to my story about the mojitos.

  3. May 29, 2011 3:48 pm

    Even easier is the Gin and Tonic, which has become the unofficial cocktail of Spain. Good tonic (Q or Fever Tree are both excellent) is just as important as good gin ( there are a plethora on the market, but my favorites are Hendicks and Citadelle). Of course, it can be as gussied up as one likes.

  4. ThinkAndDo permalink
    May 30, 2011 4:06 pm

    Although I enjoy gin, my favorite summer drink is Pernod accompanied with a small pitcher of ice water. The first time I had it was outside a very tiny cafe on a dirt road during a heat wave in rural Normandy. The simple pleasure of watching the transparent Pernod transform into a milky yellow upon contact with water was enhanced by a head-on collision of two slow-moving Peugeots twenty feet in front of us.
    Now, the wistful memory of shaking glass shards from my hair arises when I have the first Pernod of the summer.

  5. Doc permalink
    June 2, 2011 2:29 am

    Sounds yummy. Will have to try it this summer.

    Speaking of naming cocktails, Jessica and I invented the “Inner Tube”, a simple drink made from pouring equal parts Aperol (thanks ADS!) and brandy over ice and finishing with a splash of decent lemonade (Newman’s Own will do, or you can start with simple syrup and fresh lemon juice, in which case I like a little fresh orange juice in there too), garnished with a slice of citrus. It’s meant to be sipped while floating on a tube in your favorite lake or swimming hole.

    You can also switch out the brandy for tequila, but we have no name for that. Ideas?

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