Mr. Plinth’s Soda Cart and the Tom Collins

See more Writing


The first carbonated water hit London’s bar scene in 1813, in the form of a portable soda cart created by a man named Charles Plinth. Plinth’s mobile carbonation machine allowed him to travel the city and provide accounts with soda water. Pretty remarkable, really, when you think about those bartenders that got to experiment with the first soda water in their cocktails. 

No more than a year after the arrival of Mr. Plinth’s soda cart, a punch was created by a waiter by the name of John Collins, at the bar in the Limmer’s Hotel. His mixture of gin, lemon juice, sugar, and the new soda water was exceedingly popular, and soon became requested at bars all over the city.

By 1876 a single-serving version of the punch had been published in Jerry Thomas’ bartenders guide, and it’s name changed slightly… to Tom Collins. The drink would become known as one of the most iconic highballs in history.

The trick to the Collins is to avoid the pitfall of nightclubs and dive bars all over the world: using grapefruit soda as a sort of Collins “mix”. Instead, take the extra half a minute and make the cocktail the way John Collins did, with fresh ingredients. I promise that first sip will make for the perfect segue from spring into summer. It’s rare to find me without one of these long sippers in my hand at backyard parties this time of year. 

Tom Collins

2 oz London Dry or Old Tom gin (try seeking out Hayman’s if going the Old Tom route)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz 2:1 simple syrup, made by slowly heating two parts sugar to one part water in a small saucepan on the stove, until the sugar is dissolved. 
2 oz chilled club soda

Combine all ingredients but soda in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until ingredients are combined and chilled, and add soda water to shaker. Pour over fresh ice in a tall glass and garnish with a lemon peel.   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *