Thirsty Thursday

The Spring Collins: spring meets 19th century Britain

Aline Peres Martins | Staff Writer

Tart, but with a nice sweetness the Spring Collins is the drink to make as new fruits come into season. The drink has strawberry, lemon, rhubarb and grapefruit flavors.

As the warm weather – hopefully ­– starts to roll around, seasonal spring fruits start to brighten up the rows of the farmer’s market. Rhubarb, a bright red stalk impossible to come by when not in season, all of a sudden becomes ubiquitous. Strawberries in the grocery store look redder, and grapefruits are sweeter.

What better way to celebrate the start of spring, or rather a deep desire for the start of spring weather, than to take all of these fruits, mix them with some lemon, sweeten it up, and throw in some gin?  It’s a Spring Collins.

We now know where the “Spring” part of the drink name comes from, but how about the “Collins?” Well, that part is debatable. Like any good British tale, the origin of the Tom Collins cocktail includes a rhyme, a hoax and one man taking credit for another man’s invention.

To start, historians have all concluded that Tom Collins is not a real person. But there was a bartender in London named John Collins, and that is where the first origin story comes from.

The tale goes that John Collins, the head waiter at Limmer’s Hotel in London in the 1820s and 1830s, was a great innovator when it came to mixing drinks. He apparently made a great punch, but according to, he didn’t actually create the Collins.

Instead, it was a fellow London bartender, Stephen Price, an American who ran the Garrick Club who came up with the concoction. But Price didn’t have as much charisma as Collins, so the drink was named John Collins.

And when they substituted Old Tom gin for the Dutch-Style gin Collins had been using, the name then changed to Tom Collins.

But that isn’t the only story. There is another story about the Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874, where men would lie to each other, saying that a man named Tom Collins was badmouthing them. Then, they would all walk into the bars asking for a guy named Tom Collins.

But a clever bartender decided to create a tall gin drink of the same name, so that when men would ask for Tom Collins, they in turn would receive a drink … and a bill to go with it. Clever.

Still, the San Francisco Chronicle spoke to a historian named David Wondrich who did research on the original story’s Tom Collins creator, John Collins. Wondrich discovered in a 1904 magazine article that John Collins was, in fact, the creator of the Tom Collins. So now we’re sticking to the original story.

It is all very confusing, but one thing that came out of it that we can all appreciate is the wonderful Tom Collins, essentially fancy lemonade with added gin. And then, the Spring Collins: lemonade with spring fruits —tart, light and sweet with the signature sour gin twist.

That, and we also got this little rhyme by an unknown poet:

“My name is John Collins, headwaiter at Limmer’s,

Corner of Conduit Street, Hanover Square,

My chief occupation is filling brimmers

For all the young gentlemen frequenters there.”


  • 5 oz Gin Lane 1751 Gin (I used the ‘Victoria’ Pink because it looked festive)
  • .75 oz lemon juice
  • .75 oz of strawberry juice
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb
  • .75 Rhubarb and Grapefruit Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz Sparkling water


Make Rhubarb and Grapefruit Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, grapefruit and roughly chopped rhubarb in a saucepan over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Place aside to let it cool.
  • After it cools, strain out grapefruit and rhubarb.
  • In a glass, mix gin, lemon juice and strawberry juice, and .75 oz of the simple syrup with ice. Top with sparkling water, garnish with one slice of lemon and enjoy.

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