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Throwback Drink of the Past: Southside

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Are you familiar with the Southside Cocktail? It's a refreshing gin-based drink with a hint of mint and citrus. There are various stories about its origin, some attributing it to the prohibition era and others claiming it was created at the Southside Sportsmen's Club or the 21 Club in Manhattan.

Regardless of its origin, it's a delightful cocktail typically served in a Collins glass with ice and a sprig of mint. Interestingly, some believe the cocktail was a favorite of Al Capone, a notorious bootlegger in the South Side of Chicago during the 1920s.

The Southside Cocktail is made with mint, simple syrup, lime juice, and gin. It's similar to a Tom Collins but without carbonation. The oldest known printed recipe dates back to 1917. To make the best Southside Cocktail, it's recommended to use a high-quality gin, such as a London Dry or a citrus-forward gin. When garnishing the drink with mint, it's essential to give the leaves a slap or two between your hands to release their essential oils.

You'll get different answers if you ask your bartender or cocktail historian about the South Side. Some say it's a Gimlet with mint, while others describe it as a gin-based Mint Julep with ice. Cocktail bars have various South Side recipes, some with lemon and some with lime, which may come from Enslinn's recipe that uses both. This recipe uses lemon, like the 21 Club. Be gentle with the mint to avoid highlighting its bitter notes when making the cocktail. Double-straining the drink through a fine-mesh sieve will prevent any torn mint from getting stuck in your teeth.

Ask your nearest bartender or cocktail historian to describe the South Side, and you'll likely receive various responses. Some say it's a Gimlet with mint served in a cocktail glass. Others describe it as a gin-based Mint Julep served over ice. 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 no torn mint bits enter your glass and inevitably get stuck in your teeth.


2 oz. Gin

1 oz fresh Lime juice

¾ Simple Syrup

8-10 fresh mint leaves

Mint Leaf, to garnish


Combine all the ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds, or until frosted on the outside.

Double strain into a couple. Garnish with mint leaf


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