The Game-Changing Ingredient For A Refreshing Tom Collins Cocktail

Even traditional cocktail recipes need an update from time to time to keep them fresh. That's particularly true of a drink like the Tom Collins, which is as traditional as cocktails get, with a recipe that dates all the way back to the 19th century.

Although the traditional Tom Collins includes only a few simple ingredients, Tasting Table recipe developer Jaime Shelbert has come up with a few game-changing twist on the classic cocktail. The base liquor — in the case it's gin — remains the same, and Shelbert recommends adding four ounces of the liquor (for two servings) along with simple syrup and club soda to a shaker half-filled with ice.

But rather than using plain lemons for the fresh lemon juice in the traditional recipe, for Tasting Table's Tom Collins, Shelbert prefers Meyer lemons instead. Unlike the plain lemons most commonly sold in markets (usually of the Lisbon variety) which add tartness and little else, the Meyer lemon also adds a hint of sweetness. Meyer lemons are actually a hybrid fruit — basically half lemon and half mandarin orange — which lessens the tartness factor and gives a Tom Collins a slightly more complex flavor.

New twists add flavor and elegance

The swap for freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (remember, for two servings) isn't the only game-changing ingredient included in Shelbert's recipe for Tasting Table. She has another twist or two up her sleeve. 

One, appropriately enough, involves an actual twist; that is to say, the zest of lemon peel traditionally added as a garnish to Tom Collins cocktails. In this case, too, Shelbert recommends using Meyer lemons instead of the plain variety. In addition to changing the flavor profile of a traditional Tom Collins, using Meyer lemons also adds more color to the drink. Because of the Meyer lemon's distinctive tang and tint, your cocktail will not only taste sweeter, but it will appear bolder and more colorful as well. 

But that's not all. After you've shaken and strained your Tom Collins into two glasses and added your Meyer lemon twists, Shelbert recommends another garnish: a sprig of rosemary or thyme. This herbal accent pairs nicely with gin, and adds a pleasantly earthy aroma and a touch of class to the cocktail's presentation, giving it that final bit of je nais se quois before you clink glasses and say "cheers!"