Having grown a bit tired of tonic water, I've started experimenting with classic mixed drinks. My first target: The Tom Collins.
I started with the basic recipe: three shots of gin, one shot of lemon juice concentrate, one shot of simple syrup. Shake well. Fill the Collins glass with ice. Pour in the mix, top off with soda water (about 2-3 shots worth). It was pretty good.
I then tried it with lemon juice that I squeezed myself, and it was much better.
I then added a dash of grenadine, and it was fabulous. I highly recommend it. I'm guessing it has half the calories of a gin and tonic (depending, of course, how much tonic water you use and since I typically use about three shots of tonic for every shot of gin, my Tom Collins probably lops off about half the calories).
A few things to keep in mind:
1. Shake the mix. The simple syrup won't dissolve properly with stirring.
2. Be sure you shake the mix . . . not the mix with the soda water. (I hope the reason is obvious, but if not, you probably shouldn't be drinking in the first place.)
3. Although I highly recommend New Amsterdam gin, I think you're probably better off getting a very dry gin. That's what the classic drink manuals recommend, and I think it's a little better that way. I'm just using Seagram's Extra Dry and it's doing the trick just fine.
4. My Collins glasses are about 16 ounces. That's a little large, but they seem to be about perfect for this concoction in the amounts mentioned above.
5. I have no opinion about whether you need to use a Collins glass. I used to incline to the view that the type of glass couldn't possibly make a difference, but as I get older, I grow more skeptical about such rash conclusions. If tradition recommends a tall glass, I use a tall glass. (This, btw, is very Edward Burke-ian of me, but there's no reason to ruin this fun post with a detour into the conservative intellectual tradition.)
6. The classic drink recipes recommend filling the glass 3/4ths with ice. My Collins glasses are bigger than conventional Collins glasses, and I like my drinks cold, so I fill it almost to the top with ice.
7. I suggest avoiding the Tom Collins mixes. I'm told they typically contain loads of sugar and corn syrup. You don't need that. Use the simple syrup so you control the sugar amount (45 calories per shot) and avoid the corn syrup altogether (although the dash of grenadine adds a miniscule amount of corn syrup). If you have a shaker (I use my kids' protein shake shaker), it's easy to make your own mix. And besides, by the time you start making your third Tom Collins, it's comically fun to shake it while dancing to the music.
You can find all these ingredients at Kroger, incidentally, The simple syrup is in the liquor section and it's pretty cheap: $2.99 a bottle, which makes about 12 drinks.
Each drink probably costs a little under $2.00: $1.20 for the three shots of gin, 25 cents for the lemon, 25 cents for the simple syrup shot, 15 cents for the dash of grenadine, 10 cents for the soda water. I don't buy ice and I charge nothing for my shaking skills.
Speaking of Tom Collins glasses. When I started on this new skill, I asked Marie if we had any Tom Collins glasses. She said we didn't, but I then remembered that I had bought a set of Tom Collins glasses (or at least, "Collins-like glasses") at a garage sale about 25 years ago. I didn't buy them to make Tom Collins, but rather because they were cheap and cool and antique-looking. Here's a pic of them: