Rickeys vs Collins

Rickeys vs Collins

Posted by Spirits Kiosk on 7 May 2023

Ah, the age-old question that has haunted cocktail enthusiasts for generations: Rickey or Collins?

If you've ever found yourself lost in the mesmerising world of mixology, you've likely come across these two titans of taste. Which to pick?!

Fear not, we are about to delve into the intriguing intricacies of these two iconic drinks and arm you with enough information to choose your own champion.

The Rickey

The Rickey, a dashing and refreshing concoction, is known for its zesty character and effervescent charm. Hailing from the late 19th century, this classic highball is predominantly made with gin, lime, and club soda.

Its creation is attributed to Colonel Joe Rickey, a Democratic lobbyist known for his love of refreshing drinks. As the story goes, one sweltering summer day, Colonel Rickey stepped into Shoomaker's, a popular D.C. bar, seeking a thirst-quenching libation. In collaboration with the bartender, George A. Williamson, they crafted a simple yet invigorating blend of bourbon, lime, and sparkling soda water served over ice.

This ingenious concoction became an instant hit among the city's political circles and was dubbed the "Rickey" in honour of its creator (or at least, its original benefactor).

Over time, the Rickey evolved as gin replaced bourbon as the spirit of choice, giving birth to the Gin Rickey we know and love today. The secret to a perfect Rickey lies in the balance of tart and fizzy.

Gin Rickey Recipe

50ml Gin

20ml Fresh lime juice

150ml Sparkling water

Fill a highball glass with ice, add gin and lime juice, and top it off with sparkling water. Stir gently and garnish with a lime peel.

Voilà, you've crafted yourself a delightful Rickey!

Which spirits work well in a Rickey?

If you order a Rickey in a bar, expect it to be made with Gin. We find that classic gins work best here, so opt for those with prominent notes of piny juniper. Earthy gins contrast the bright lime citrus too. Try the likes of  Trevethan Gin for a balanced London Dry that seems tailor made for this cocktail.

That doesn't mean you have to stick to that at home though. For example, vodka, lime and soda is essentially a Rickey. Returning to the original Bourbon Rickey makes for an enjoyable drink (not dissimilar to a Whisky Sour), and with a depth of flavour that will have you returning for another quite quickly.

The Collins

The Collins, a sophisticated and elegant drink, has also been delighting taste buds since the early 19th century. This genteel cocktail boasts a mix of gin, lemon, simple syrup, and club soda (sparkling water to us Brits).

  Classic Collins Recipe

50ml Gin

25ml Fresh lemon juice

10ml Simple syrup (sugar syrup)

Sparkling water

In a shaker, combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice. Shake well and strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice.

Top with soda / sparkling water, and garnish with a lemon wheel.

A little history...

The Collins cocktail is a true classic in the world of mixology and can trace its roots back to the early 19th century in London, England.

Its origins are often credited to John Collins, a headwaiter at Limmer's Old House, a popular hotel and coffee house on Conduit Street. John Collins, known for his affable nature and penchant for creating delectable libations, concocted a refreshing mix of gin, lemon, sugar, and soda water that quickly gained notoriety. It wasn't long before the original "John Collins" recipe made its way across the pond to America, where it underwent a transformation.

As Old Tom Gin became less popular, it was replaced with London Dry Gin, and the modern-day "Tom Collins" was born.

The Collins has since evolved into a versatile cocktail family, featuring variations that use different base spirits like whisky, rum and vodka, but the original gin-based concoction remains a timeless favourite among cocktail enthusiasts worldwide.

Which spirits work well in a Collins?

The Tom Collins is the version so many Gin fans are familiar with and using an Old Tom Gin can make for a terrific cocktail. The added intensity many Old Tom's have can be felt in each bubble that fizzes up too. If you love the huge lemon zing that a Collins can bring, try going one further again by using Malfy Gin. The fresh lemon of the juice enhances the sherbert lemon of the gin and it's as zingy as it gets, while also delivering layers of freshness. 

In our opinion, it’s less about the sweetness of the gin (as that can be accounted for by the addition of the simple syrup) but contrasting the citrus or riffing off it. It’s key to pick the right gin.

Gins with floral top notes can be delicious, while gins that also have a jammy undertone (such as  Conker or Shortcross due to their nuanced use of elderberry) seem to come to life in a Collins.

TLDR? Here’s the difference between a Rickey and a Collins.

While these two classic cocktails share a similar base of gin and soda, their personalities are distinctly different. The Rickey embraces a tart and tangy persona, while the Collins is a touch sweeter and more refined.

Another key difference lies in the citrus: Rickeys favour lime, while Collins’ lean towards lemon. Regardless of your preference, both cocktails offer an undeniably refreshing experience.

Feeling suitably informed and thirsty?

Great! Then it’s time to grab hold of a gin, get the citrus sliced and juiced and shake, stir, and sip your way to a refreshing drink!