One bar tale holds the Southside was created during Prohibition by gangsters on Chicago’s South Side to hide the flavor of the bath tub gin they were distributing. Another story holds it was created in the swanky private 21 Club on W. 52nd Street in New York City. Whichever piece of cocktail lore you choose to believe, both side can agree Baltimore took something good and attempted to screw it up. (Note to Charm City, that cocktail was not invented by y’all, uses light rum, and is called a Mojito.)
South Side recipes are all over the place. Some call it the Southside, while others such as the Savoy Cocktail Book prefer South Side. Sentencing Baltimore’s bastardized version to a corner, all of the recipes I saw use gin as the liquor of choice along with some combination of lemon, sugar, and mint. Whether or not to include a splash of club soda is the final bone of contention.
I mixed up several South Side cocktails. I tried the recipe listed in the Savoy Cocktail Book. I tried one strained in a cocktail glass and another on the rocks in its original fizz format. Some were sugar sweet and others heavy on the gin. My favorite version was close to the 21 Club’s version and yielded a drink that had a good mint flavor, some sweetness, and allowed the gin still to make its presence known.
2 oz gin
2 tsp. simple syrup
Juice of half a lemon
8 mint leaves
Tear mint leaves and place in shaker. Top with gin and sugar/simple syrup and lemon juice. Fill 1/2 way with cracked ice. Shake well and strain into a glass.