Ask your nearest bartender or cocktail historian to describe the South Side, and you’ll likely receive a variety of responses. Some say it’s a Gimlet with mint that’s served up in a cocktail glass. Others describe it as a gin-based Mint Julep served over ice. It’s possible that the drink was named for the South Side neighborhood in Chicago, or maybe it was invented at Southside Sportsmen’s Club on Long Island. Whichever the case, the South Side and its refreshing combination of gin, citrus, sugar and mint is a classic cocktail worth knowing—and drinking.
The recipe can be traced back to at least 1916, when it appeared in Huge Enslinn’s book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” as the South Side Fizz. His version called for gin, lemon and lime juices, sugar, mint and club soda. Lose the bubbles and cull one of the citrus fruits, and you get the South Side as we know it today.
Multiple accounts peg the South Side’s creation to the 21 Club in New York, a bar that poured countless South Sides throughout the decades. But considering that the first iteration of the famous speakeasy didn’t open until 1922, it’s more likely that the bar popularized the drink rather than invented it.
Browse South Side recipes at cocktail bars today, and you will find some drinks made with lemon and others with lime. This citrusy kerfuffle may stem from Enslinn’s recipe containing both juices. It tastes great with lemon or lime, but the 21 Club served theirs with lemon, and so does this recipe.
When making the cocktail, treat the mint gently. Too vigorous a thrashing will highlight the herb’s bitter notes rather than its sweet and aromatic qualities. Double-straining the contents (straining the drink through a fine-mesh sieve) will ensure that none of the torn mint bits enter your glass and inevitably get stuck in your teeth.
- 5 mint leaves
- 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- Garnish: mint sprig
Add the mint leaves and lemon juice into a shaker and gently muddle.
Add the gin and simple syrup with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a mint sprig.