Though the dog days of summer are officially behind us, it's still hot enough to warrant a refreshing Tom Collins. Known as the “king of cooling drinks,” the cocktail itself is just four ingredients: gin, simple syrup or sugar, lemon juice, and soda water.

It also comes with dueling origin stories: One from the U.S., and another from across the pond.

JOKER'S DELIGHT

In 19th century America, one summer spawned what came to be called the Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. It was a pretty lame setup: a prankster would tell men that a man named Tom Collins was saying dirty things about them, their wives, and their children. If they hurried, they could catch the miscreant around the corner at their local bar.

Once that man got to the bar, the bartender would tell the mark that Tom had just left to visit another bar—on the other side of town. For whatever reason, the hoax spread. Newspapers kept it going with headlines like “Tom Collins Still Among Us,” and articles reported sightings and projections of his next move. The trick eventually petered out, but not before it caused its fair share of scuffles.

One theory is that an enterprising bartender whipped up a refreshing drink to serve to victims chasing the nefarious Mr. Collins.

MEANWHILE, IN EUROPE...

The less interesting history, and probably the truer one, is that a waiter named John Collins made a similar drink with Holland gin. He slapped his name on the drink, but someone (probably an American) substituted Old Tom style gin for genever. Old Tom gin is a style of gin that’s less juniper-forward than London dry. It’s lightly sweetened to balance the gin’s flavor and to smooth out some of the burn from its alcohol content.

London dry gin became popular while Old Tom became rarer and rarer until it went out of production entirely. Thanks to the rise of the craft cocktail movement, Old Tom style gin has recently been resurrected by brands like Hayman’s and Ransom.

HIT THE LAB

John Collins

1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 oz genever (We like Bols)
Lemon wheel, for garnish

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add all ingredients to the glass and top with a splash of soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Tom Collins

1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 oz Old Tom gin
Lemon wheel, for garnish

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add all ingredients to the glass and top with a splash of soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel.