The Southside is a classic cocktail that has many interpretations. Made with gin, citrus juice, simple syrup, and fresh mint, it doesn’t sound particularly complicated, yet no one can seem to agree how it’s made!
The history behind the cocktail
In my pursuit of understanding the history of the Southside (or is it South Side?) I’ve learned that it is often cited as originating at the 21 Club in New York, although a julep-like Southside was published as early as 1913, and a fizzy variation appeared in Hugo Ennslin’s 1917 Recipes for Mixed Drinks.
An interesting read on the subject is The Convoluted History of the Southside by Al Sotack. He concludes that the ‘gin daiquiri with mint’ version that we see most frequently today is probably due to the influence of legendary bartender Sasha Petraske and his bar Milk & Honey.
The Southside that Petraske tested and perfected would have been served to countless bartenders who brought it back to their home bars. The drink in its modern form likely spread from that starting point, solidifying that version’s popularity.
As a side note, Petraske was brilliant and if you don’t own the book Regarding Cocktails, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy!
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No one is really sure who first whipped up this gin sour (or was it first a gin julep?) but today’s Southside is most commonly made as a simple sour-style drink with the addition of fresh mint.
Some say it’s made with lemon juice, some say lime. Some like to gently muddle the mint, others just toss it into the shaker. Most serve it up, but some choose to serve it on the rocks.
Because the specs and presentation are all a bit hazy to begin with, I decided to share my preferred recipe and use the vibrant Empress Gin (it’s blue thanks to butterfly pea blossoms). The result is a cool and refreshing gin cocktail with traditional flavors and a bright visual twist.
Love the vintage glassware? Find more incredible glasses like this over at my friend Audrey’s shop Antique Vintage Find.
What’s in the Southside:
- Fresh lime juice
- Simple syrup
- Fresh mint leaves
How to make it:
First you’ll need to make some simple syrup. Simple syrup is just equal parts water and sugar. Stir to combine or put it in a jar with a lid and shake until the sugar has dissolved. That’s it! No need to cook the syrup, although you can use warm water to help it dissolve quicker. You can learn all about cocktail syrups in my Ultimate Guide to Cocktail Syrups!
Next, measure your liquid ingredients and add them to a cocktail shaker. Then add ice and the fresh mint leaves and shake until chilled. Fine strain the cocktail into a coupe or martini glass and garnish with a sprig of mint. It’s that simple.
To muddle or not to muddle?
I think muddling isn’t really necessary here. Mint is a delicate herb to begin with, so you don’t want to mess with it too much or it will take on an off-putting bitter flavor. Instead, I recommend clapping your mint leaves between your hands before adding them to the shaker. This will help to release more of the herb’s natural oils.
Lime juice or lemon?
The 21 Club’s Southside is made with lemon juice, and many folks will tell you that that’s how it should be made. So give it a try! Simply substitute lemon juice for the lime. Depending on the sourness of your citrus, you may find that it’s best with a touch less simple syrup (lemons tend to be a bit less tart than limes).
On the rocks
If you like your drink to last a little longer and have a little more dilution, try a Southside served over ice. Shake as usual and then strain the cocktail into a rocks glass filled with ice. I love it on the rocks with bubbles, which brings me to the:
Make your Southside even more refreshing by adding some sparkling water. Make the cocktail as usual, then strain into a tall glass filled with ice and top it off with chilled club soda or other sparkling water. Garnish with mint. Make it with lemon juice for a minty take on a Tom Collins, or make it with lime for Gin Mojito vibes!
Southside Royal Fizz
Want to take your Fizz to the next level? Replace the club soda in a Southside Fizz with champagne or another fairly dry sparkling wine. Keep in mind that this adds to the ABV of the drink, so scale back the quantity of gin to 1 oz or you may need a Corpse Reviver in the morning!
If you enjoy gin cocktails, you may also like:
- Gin Rickey
- Strawberry Basil Gin Sour
- Gin Ramos Fizz
- Raspberry Basil Blossom Gin Smash
- Quill (A Negroni Riff)
- 2 oz gin (I used Empress Gin)
- ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¾ oz simple syrup
- 8 mint leaves
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill it 3/4 with ice.
- Shake until chilled, then strain the cocktail into a coupe glass.
- Garnish with mint.
- Some prefer to use lemon juice instead of lime. Try both and see what you like best!
- Make it a Southside Fizz by serving it over ice in a tall glass and topping it off with soda water. If you use lemon juice it will taste like a minty Tom Collins, if you use lime it will taste like a Mojito made with gin. Yum!
- Make it a Southside Royal Fizz by using sparkling wine instead of soda water. Scale back the gin to 1 ounce to keep the drink from becoming too boozy.