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John Collins Cocktail Recipe (With Bourbon)

Everyone knows Tom, but have you heard about the John Collins cocktail? It’s a tall, dark, and handsome thirst-quencher!

It can be made with gin or whiskey, but this recipe focuses on the latter and uses bourbon.

A glass of homemade John Collins cocktail with cherry and lemon for garnish
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This whiskey cocktail is downright refreshing. It’s smooth, bright, bold, bubbly, and just the right amount of sweet. 

It’s the perfect libation for any occasion. At cocktail hours, cookouts, or dinner parties, the John Collins will be a big hit. 

What Is a John Collins? 

Friends, I present to you Tom’s bolder cousin, John Collins. 

As the name suggests, it’s a variation of the classic gin-based Tom Collins. It has whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water.

Really, it’s a lot like a fizzy whiskey sour without the egg white.

The funny thing is, the Tom Collins cocktail was originally called John Collins. Can you imagine?!

Many claim server John Collins at London’s Limmer’s Hotel named it after himself. 

When the 1870s rolled around, that all changed. A bartending book reported it as the Tom Collins, named after Old Tom gin.

It was so popular, it sparked a whole line of Collins cocktails: Phil, Michael, Bootsy, and yes, John. 

To classify as a Collins, you need a few key things:

  • Liquor
  • Citrus
  • Sweetener
  • Carbonated beverage

All have their own time and place. But there’s something particularly intriguing about the addition of whiskey. It’s bold, smooth, and downright refreshing.

A cold glass of whiskey bourbon with lemon and maraschino cherry on a white marble table


For the John Collins cocktail, you need four ingredients and a garnish, plus a Collins glass. 

  • Ice – Traditionally, this cocktail comes on the rocks in a Collins glass. So pack one full of ice cubes before you fill it up.
  • Whiskey – Bourbon is the best. I enjoy using Buillet or Maker’s Mark. But you can use any type of whiskey. 
  • Lemon Juice – Use fresh juice from ripe lemons. Meyer lemons have a particularly delightful flavor. Just skip the bottled stuff. It will make the drink taste subpar.
  • Simple Syrup – To sweeten the beverage and balance the tartness of the lemon. Homemade or store-bought both work.
  • Soda Water – For the bubbles! It makes the drink effervescent and refreshing. 
  • Citrus Slices and a Maraschino Cherry – Use an orange slice and a maraschino cherry for a classic garnish. You can also use a lemon slice instead of an orange.
Boozy and refreshing John Collins cocktail in a tall glass with ice, lemon and maraschino cherry

How to Make a John Collins

The John Collins is a simple cocktail that’s very beginner-friendly. Just grab a tall glass and follow these steps:

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  1. Prep the glass. Fill a Collins or tall glass with ice.
  1. Pour. Pour in the bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Stir until mixed.
  1. Top. Top it off with soda water. Garnish with an orange or lemon slice and a maraschino cherry.
  1. Sip. Serve and enjoy!

Tips and Tricks

When mixing a John Collins, keep these tips and tricks in mind:

  • For the best whiskey, go with bourbon. Bourbon is the top choice for this cocktail. But Canadian, rye, and blended whiskeys are also suitable alternatives.
  • Fresh is best! Freshly squeezed lemon juice tastes much better in this cocktail than bottled. It’ll make your drink brighter and more flavorful.
  • Adjust the sweetness. Adjust the simple syrup quantity based on your preference.
  • Muddle the citrus. To squeeze out all the juice plus the oils, muddle the lemon. It will enhance the drink with a bigger citrusy kick.
  • Choose your carbonation. Soda water and club soda both give the beverage a fizzy touch. You can also use sparkling water or seltzer water. The flavor will vary, but all are refreshing.

John Collins Cocktail Recipe (With Bourbon)




This John Collins cocktail is classic, refined, and strong! Made with bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup, it packs quite the punch.


  • 2 ounces bourbon whiskey

  • 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup

  • 2 ounces soda water/club soda

  • Lemon or orange slice, for garnish (optional)

  • Maraschino cherry, for garnish (optional)


  • Fill a Collins glass (or highball glass) with ice cubes.
  • Pour in the bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Stir to combine.
  • Top it with the soda water. Garnish it with a lemon or orange slice and/or a maraschino cherry, if desired.
  • Serve it and enjoy!
John Collins Cocktail

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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