We adore a pompous fool, Boozers. In fact, if we are honest, we have strolled down that perilous path once or twice, only to have our balloon of self-admiration popped unceremoniously by a worthy opponent. It’s why we love Jane Austen, and also why we enjoy a tasty little concoction — once known as the official drink of summer — called a Tom Collins.
In the far-off years of our youth, we recall our first foray into a nightclub, armed with a fake i.d. and a few crumpled dollar bills stuffed into our spandex tights. As the hairy-chested bartender cocked a cynical eye at our underage attempt at sophisticated nonchalance, we stuttered out a request for a Tom Collins — clearly marking us as urbane world travelers.
Alas, what we didn’t realize was that we had immediately marked ourselves as more akin to the inimitable Mr. Collins, the silly social-climbing vicar in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth Bennett had him pegged in five seconds flat, and would certainly never have accepted a watery Tom Collins made with a slug of cheap gin and a splash of sour mix, topped off with club soda and a maraschino cherry stabbed with a plastic sword. Just like Elizabeth, we now know we don’t have to settle for second-best.
So we’ve imagined Mr. Collins as he should be, if transformed into a refreshing cocktail: bright, fresh, lightly herbal, and blessed with a sparkling wit. Watch out, Mr. Darcy — there may be competition yet.
We’ve made a summery lemonade base for our Mr. Collins, sweetened with a pineapple sage simple syrup. If you don’t have this charming herb growing in your garden or on your windowsill, you can make a simple syrup with mint (especially a pineapple or orange mint), which will impart that sunny herbaceous quality.
4 or 5 lemons, freshly juiced
Pineapple sage simple syrup (see below for instructions)
Chilled club soda
2 ounces good quality gin (like Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)
Chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine
Orange wedge and sprig of sage or mint for garnish
Make the fizzy lemonade base by combining the fresh lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup, and a 1/2 cup of the club soda. Stir vigorously and add more simple syrup if necessary. Fill a Collins (tall) glass with ice and pour in the gin and up to a 1/2 cup of lemonade. Top with an ounce or so of chilled Prosecco and garnish with orange and sage.
The simple syrup is a snap: one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and several sage (or mint) leaves cooked over low heat until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove sage leaves and cool; can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.