The hoax kicked off with a prankster telling a group that they were being talked about by the loose lipped Tom Collins, and then sending them on an angry goose chase to find him.
Newspapers propagated the hoax by printing sightings and urging citizens to find the slanderer. The Decatur, Illinois Daily Republican printed “Tom Collins Still Among Us,” in June 1874. “This individual kept up his nefarious business of slandering our citizens all day yesterday. But we believe that he succeeded in keeping out of the way of his pursuers. In several instances he came well nigh being caught, having left certain places but a very few moments before the arrival of those who were hunting him. His movements are watched to-day with the utmost vigilance.” The papers kept the story going by reporting false sightings and projecting Collins’ next move.
According to Wall Street Journal columnist and cocktail historian Eric Felten, “It doesn’t take much to imagine how Tom Collins came to be a drink. How many times does someone have to barge into a saloon demanding Tom Collins before the bartender takes the opportunity to offer him a cocktail so-named?”
The first Tom Collins recipe dates to the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas’ The Bartenders Guide.
The Recipe is:
Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup (simple syrup)
Juice of a small lemon
1 large wine-glass of Gin
2 to 3 lumps of ice;
Shake up well and strain into a large bar-glass. Fill up the glass with plain soda water and imbibe while it is lively. 21+ please drink responsibly.