I’ve decided to break in our little club with the Tom Collins, partly because I know it well (I’ve been drinking it consistently for the past five or six years) and partly because there are so many stories surrounding its origins.

Some folks say the Tom Collins originated in England; others swear it’s American. Should it be made with modern London Dry Gin, or does it taste best with a few jiggers of Old Tom-style gin, which was the go-to back when the drink was first popular in the late-1800s? To garnish with a lemon-cherry flag, or just a lemon wedge? It all depends on who you ask.

I’ve been cramming for Saturday’s inaugural cocktail club meeting like a college student during finals week, unearthing stories about the mysterious Tom Collins and interviewing bartenders at every opportunity. This morning at work, I had the pleasure of meeting in person a reader who’s a former Drake Hotel bartender. He’d read my article on whether classic cocktails can still be found at classic hotel lounges and wanted to chat further about it, so he offered to bring in his copy of the original Chicago Bartenders and Beverage Dispensers’ Union Local No. 278 recipe book (originally published in 1944; it’s worth about $125 according to these folks’ auction), and let me xerox the whole thing (!). This little book actually has two Tom Collins recipes, which I can now add to my slew of others at home.

Looking forward to trying out a few recipes Saturday morning before presenting to the club that evening.