John Collins

Bright and bubbly, the John Collins cocktail is a delicious whiskey cocktail that is light and refreshing. Based on the Tom Collins drink, this whiskey Collins is a sweet-and-sour drink, making it an excellent everyday sipper. 

Two whiskey cocktails sit side by side with their tools and ingredients around them.

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John Collins recipe

You’ve heard of Tom Collins. But have you met John?

The John Collins is the cousin of the Tom Collins cocktail. Tom is made with gin, and John is made with whiskey.

Otherwise, they are pretty similar. Both include lemon juice, a sweetener and effervescent soda.

The John Collins has the same flavors and ingredients as a hot toddy (which is served warm) and a whiskey sour (which is usually shaken with egg whites) — but it also has a splash of club soda, making it a tall, bubbly drink.

The John Collins is just one of the many variations of the Collins cocktail. Keep reading to learn how to make this delicious whiskey drink and its many other cousins.

More classic cocktails: Pimm’s CupGin & TonicScrewdriverBrown DerbyGreyhound

Why you’ll love this recipe

The John Collins is a classic cocktail worth knowing. You’re going to love it, I just know it!

  • It’s like a refreshing Tom Collins, but with whiskey.
  • With just four ingredients, it is easy to put together.
  • You can switch up the ingredients to make lots of other Collins cocktails.

This drink is perfect for chilling by the pool in the summer or sipping on those fall and spring days when it’s just too hot.

Overhead view of the cocktail tools and garnishes for a classic whiskey drink.

What is a Collins cocktail?

A Collins cocktail is a sour cocktail made with a base spirit (typically gin), lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water.

The gin version is the most popular, called the Tom Collins. It’s a delicious and refreshing drink that’s incredibly versatile.

When you switch out the main spirit, the drink gets a new name. For example, when it’s made with whiskey, it’s called a John Collins.

A pale yellow cocktail sits in a bumpy glass with a orange slice and cherry garnish.

History of the John Collins

The John Collins started with the Tom Collins. And like many cocktails, the history of the Tom Collins is debated.

According to Difford’s Guide, the most likely version suggests the Collins morphed from the 19th century gin punch, a popular drink of the time. A bartender named John Collins at Limmer’s Bar in London was famous for his gin punch, and it could be that the drink was called a Tom Collins when made with Old Tom gin.

Another story suggests a Mr. Collins created the drink at the Whitehouse Tavern in New York in 1873. A similar version attributes it to a bartender named Tom Collins who worked in New York City and New Jersey.

One more story goes that the drink got its name from the Great Tom Collins Hoax of New York in 1874. It was a joke that involved telling a friend a man named Tom Collins had insulted them and he could be found in a bar nearby.

Regardless of its origin, there were originally two drinks in the Collins family: the Tom Collins and the John Collins. Tom was always made with Old Tom gin, while John was made with Holland gin, AKA genever.

Today, the drink has evolved even more. Modern Tom Collinses are almost always made with London Dry Gin, though Old Tom gin is still preferable. The John Collins now also refers to a drink made with whiskey — and has no relation to the basketball player John Collins.

A hand carefully places a gold skewer holding an orange slice and cocktail cherry atop a cocktail.

Tools & glassware

You will need a cocktail shaker and a Hawthorne strainer to make a John Collins. A three-piece shaker that has a built-in strainer will also work.

To get the full Collins experience, the right glassware is essential. The drink is almost always served in Collins glasses, which are tall, narrow glasses usually holding about 12 to 16 ounces of liquid.

Not only does the tall glass showcase the drink’s pretty color, it also helps to maintain its effervescence. Plus, the tall shape allows for plenty of ice.

However, you may prefer a Collins ice cube. This long, skinny, rectangular ice cube is made just for the Collins glass and highball glass. You can buy Collins ice trays just for making this unique shape of ice. But regular ice cubes are totally fine!

A bumpy glass holds a yellow whiskey cocktail with another in the background.


The John Collins has just four simple ingredients, plus a few of garnishes to finish it off. Here’s what you need:

Whiskey: Use your favorite whiskey here. If you don’t have one, a bourbon like Maker’s Mark or Bulleit will work beautifully with the lemony flavor. See the Variations section below for some more types of whiskey you can try it with.

Lemon juice: If you have fresh lemons, use them! Fresh lemon juice is better and sweeter than lemon concentrate, but you’re free to use that too. Just make sure it’s a good quality lemon concentrate. Lime juice will also work if you are out of lemons. I use a citrus squeezer to get the most juice out of my citrus fruits.

Simple syrup: Because granulated sugar is difficult to mix into a cocktail, a liquid sweetener does the trick. You can use simple syrup (also called sugar syrup), which is a mixture of sugar and water. You could also try this drink with honey syrup or brown sugar syrup.

Carbonated water: This fizzy water has many names: soda water, club soda or sparkling water. Whatever you call it, it’s perfect for this cocktail. You can use plain or flavored to try some new flavor combinations.

Garnishes: The traditional garnish for a John Collins is a an orange slice and a cocktail cherry on a cocktail pick — called a “flag.” A lemon slice or lemon wedge can be used as well.

Some bars will use maraschino cherries, but brandied cherries take this cocktail up a serious notch. Add them to a cute cocktail pick to give this classic drink even more pizzaz.

Variations and substitutions

Try one of these variations on the John Collins recipe:

  • Original John Collins: Use genever or London dry gin. (The original John Collins used London dry gin or genever. Today the drink gets the John Collins name when it’s made with whiskey, but the London Dry gin version is definitely worth trying!)
  • Colonel Collins: Use bourbon whiskey.
  • Captain Collins: Use Canadian whisky.
  • Jock Collins or Sandy Collins: Use Scotch whisky.
  • Michael Collins or Mike Collins: Use Irish whiskey.
  • Non-alcoholic John Collins: You could also easily make a virgin John Collins by using a zero-proof spirit such as Ritual whiskey alternative.
A hand pours a drink from the strainer of a gold cocktail shaker.
Soda is poured over liquor in a glass resting on two stone coasters.

How to make a John Collins

Whipping up a John Collins is super simple. Here’s what to do:

  1. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice.
  3. Then top up the drink with club soda.
  4. Finally, garnish it with an orange slice and a cocktail cherry.

Tips & tricks

Save money and make your own simple syrup with sugar and water.

Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor. The concentrate can be more tart than regular lemon juice.

Try it with different kinds of gin or other spirits to experience all the versions of this cocktail.

Make a big batch and serve it in a large pitcher for a party.

What to serve with a John Collins

Bright and citrusy, the John Collins works so well with so many foods.

The lemon flavor goes especially well with seafood, such as popcorn shrimp, fried fish or a Caesar salad.

It would also go well with a light appetizer like a charcuterie board or shishito peppers.

A John Collins cocktail sits near a gold bowl of cherries and a gold bowl of orange slices, alongside another cocktail and the lid to a cocktail shaker.


What is in a John Collins drink?

The John Collins is a whiskey cocktail that is a riff on the Tom Collins drink made with gin. Both feature lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda to make an effervescent beverage.

What does a John Collins taste like?

Made with whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda, the John Collins tastes similar to a whiskey sour or a hot toddy. It has a depth of caramel, oaky whiskey flavor along with bright and zesty lemon. It’s sweet and effervescent, the perfect refreshing cocktail.

What is the difference between a Tom Collins and a John Collins?

Traditionally, the Tom Collins was made with Old Tom gin and the John Collins was made with Holland gin, AKA genever. Today, the drink has evolved and the Tom Collins can be made with either Old Tom gin or London Dry gin and the John Collins is made with whiskey.

A bourbon cocktail sits on two hexagon stone coasters garnished with a cherry and orange slice on a skewer.

More Collins cocktails

Meet the many variations of cocktails in the Collins family:

  • Joe Collins: AKA the Vodka Collins, this one’s made with your favorite vodka as the base spirit.
  • Tom Collins: The OG, made with Old Tom gin. Try this Tom Collins punch with berries for a delicious twist.
  • Pedro Collins: Use light white rum for the base spirit.
  • Pierre Collins: Brandy or cognac is the star of a Brandy Collins.
  • Pepito Collins or Juan Collins: Tequila has the leading role in this variation. Additionally, if you use grapefruit juice instead of lemon, you’ll wind up with a paloma.
  • French 75: If you use bubbly instead of club soda, you’ll end up with this classic champagne cocktail.

More whiskey cocktails

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A John Collins cocktail sits next to gold bowls of cherries and orange slices.

John Collins Drink

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Light and refreshing, the John Collins drink is an effervescent whiskey cocktail similar to the gin-based Tom Collins.
5 from 1 vote
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  • 2 oz bourbon whiskey
  • 1 oz lemon juice fresh
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 4 oz club soda
  • 1 orange slice for garnish
  • 1 cocktail cherry for garnish


  • In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup.
  • Shake well and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice.
  • Top up the drink with club soda.
  • Garnish with an orange slice and a cocktail cherry.


Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor. The concentrate can be more tart than regular lemon juice.
Try it with different kinds of whiskey or other spirits to experience all the versions of this cocktail.
  • Colonel Collins: Use bourbon whiskey. 
  • Captain Collins: Use Canadian whisky.
  • Jock Collins/Sandy Collins: Use Scotch whisky.
  • Michael Collins/Mike Collins: Use Irish whiskey.
  • Non-alcoholic John Collins: Use a zero-proof whiskey.
  • Tom Collins: Use gin.
  • Joe Collins/Vodka Collins: Use vodka. 
  • Pedro Collins: Use light white rum for the base spirit.
  • Pierre Collins: Use Brandy or cognac is the star of a Brandy Collins.
  • Pepito Collins/Juan Collins: Use tequila.
  • French 75: Use champagne instead of club soda.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1

amount per serving:

Serving: 1oz Calories: 175kcal Carbohydrates: 12g Protein: 0.1g Fat: 0.1g Saturated Fat: 0.01g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g Sodium: 33mg Potassium: 42mg Fiber: 0.1g Sugar: 11g Vitamin A: 2IU Vitamin C: 11mg Calcium: 9mg Iron: 1mg
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