Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 02:52:19 -0400 From: "Barry A. Popik" Subject: Tom Collins (an alcoholic drink) Who is Tom Collins?? WHAT'S IN A NAME? by Paul Dickson (1996) says, on page 102, "A 19th-century bartender who worked at Limmer's Old House in London." Robert Hendrickson's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS has: TOM COLLINS. Many sources tell us that the _Tom Collins_--that refreshing, tall drink made with gin (or vermouth), lemon (or lime), sugar, and soda water--honors its bartender-creator. Yet no one has been able to establish who Tom Collins was, where he came from, or when he first mixed the drink. Variations on the Tom Collins include the _John Collins_ (whiskey) and the _Marimba Collins (rum). The Tom Collins is claimed by many, but the lack of evidence indicates that its real creator didn't mix well, at least socially. The best prospect is probably John Collins, a 19th-century bartender at London's Limmer Hotel who did not devise but was famous for his gin sling--a tall gin and lemon drink that resembles the Tom Collins. This repeats H. L. Mencken's AMERICAN LANGUAGE, SUPPLEMENT I, pg. 254. The first citation in the DAE is 1909. OED has this item under "Collins" (first entry is 1944) and "Tom Collins." Under the latter is: 1888 H. JOHNSON _New Improved Bartenders Man._ (rev. ed.) 227 *Tom Collins. I was looking for, well, "color line," when I found two traces of the guy. 7 July 1874, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 3, cols. 3-5. A cartoon shows four figures, all men out to club or shoot somebody. Below is: WHERE IS TOM COLLINS? ANSWER--Why, he left by the Great Kennesaw Route, with a Round Trip Ticket to New York, which he purchased for ONLY $37, and the schedule is so fast and connections so sure, you fellows can never catch him. 5 June 1874, New Orleans Picayune, pg. 1, col. 6: His Name it was Tom Collins. The Tom Collins hoax was inaugurated here by a very laughable episode in which a noted man about town, C-- was made to play a prominent part. A party of friends, on the invitation of C--, adjourned to No. 1 1/2 for a long drink, when a friend of C's entered quickly and called him aside--"Look here, old fellow, I was taking a drink just now at Andy Parle's, when I overheard an individual denouncing you in the vilest manner. He said you loafed on your friends, borowed money and never returned it, owed bills in every quarter of the city, and were the biggest beat he knew. I inquired who he was and he gave his name as Tom Collins. He is to be found at Parle's." C-- never doubting for an instant the truth of this statement so seriously made, darted off with two friends, armed himself with revolver and knife, and went in quest of Tom Collins. He visited Parle's; Tom Collins had just left for Alf. Custer's; he followed him there to find he had just gone to the Phoenix, from thence to the Green Room, and thence to Hawkin's. That morning, J. C---, a noted railroad man, had just come in from Kansas. His friends, in order to express their appreciation of his companionship, gave him a big dinner, and about eight o'clock that evening he entered Hawkins's, dressed in an Indian costume he had brought with him, and a little the better for his dinner. He was engaged in showing a circle of admiring friends how to dance after the fashion of the Indians, when the party seeking Tom Collins entered. "Is there a man here by the name of Tom Collins?" inquired C--, addressing his question to the bar-keeper. "Yes, sir, there he is," rejoined the bartender, pointing to J. C--. C. approached the strangely arrayed savage, and said, "Are you Tom Collins?" "Yes, sir, that's my name, les ta' a drink." "Then, sir, I have to inform you that you are a lying scoundrel." "Do you wa-n-t to-o-o f-ig-ht?" replied the Indian, putting himself in position, and taking an arrow from his belt and sticking it in the floor. "My na-a-a-me i-i-s To-o-o-m Corrins, led's ta-a a drink." This conduct on the part of the conductor, who knew nothing of the hoax, but, like a drunken man, answered to the first name he was accosted by, his peculiar costume, and almost helpless condition, all contributed to appease C., who begat to smell a mouse. He expressed his surmise to his friends, and they consulted the bar keeper, who explained the whole affair to the infinite amusement of all concerned. A round of drinks followed and were scarcely discussed when in rushed a second individual who wanted Tom Collins. "Is Tom Collins here?" he excitedly inquired. "Yes--by Gravy! thas me-e-e-e n-a-me. Do you wa-a-nt to fight? Les ta-ake a drink." This last individual was rather more desperate than C. was inclined to be, and was about to strike J. C. with a cane when his friends interposed and explained the matter. He then started off to find the author of the joke he had been made the butt of. The last seen of the befuscated conductor he was being carried off by his friends, murmuring to himself as he passed along, "Yes, by Gravy, me-e-e na-a-me's Tom Collins." The drink probably started soon thereafter.