Gin. Lemon. Sugar. Mint. That's all you need to make this cool, citrusy summer sipper. So simple and so refreshingly good.There are quite a few stories about the origins of this gin-based, mint-kissed classic. By some accounts, it came from the South Side of Chicago and was enjoyed by Prohibition-era gangsters looking for a way to cover up the taste of some bad bootleg gin. Others name its birthplace as New York City, at the elegant "21" Club, where it continues to enjoy the honor of being the restaurant's signature cocktail to this day.
And you'll find plenty of variations on the recipe too: Some call for lime juice instead of lemon; some the addition of a splash of club soda, others a dash of bitters; some muddled mint, others just a sprig added as garnish; some call for simple syrup, other granulated sugar; some are served straight up, others on the rocks. It's all good.
But I love the straightforward simplicity of the "21" Club's signature recipe: gin, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and mint leaves. The mint isn't muddled, but shaken vigorously with the rest of the ingredients - just enough to release its delicate flavor and aroma. The drink is then strained and served with lots of ice. Like a tall, cool glass of boozy, faintly minty lemonade.
Southside Cocktail (adapted from the "21" Club's official recipe)
makes one drink
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 tsp granulated sugar
4 or 5 fresh mint leaves
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.
Have you tried a Southside?
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(Images: Nora Maynard)