About this time of year I start longing for the Gin Basil Smash, but my basil is just barely getting started. My mint, on the other hand, gets established quickly, and sometimes I even have some left over from Derby Day. What to do? Make the Southside cocktail! It’s a delicious summer drink that helps you forget about your basil for a while, and it’s perfect for warm weather.
The first thing you are going to notice, besides the fact that we are using fresh mint, is that this is another gin drink. By now, you should realize that a good share of classic cocktails, or at least a significant portion that come from the Prohibition era, are made with gin. That’s because gin was about the easiest spirit bootleggers could make—it is a basic maceration of botanicals and it requires no barrel aging. Some cocktails were created in an effort to mask the flavor of the “bathtub” gin. If you are not fond of gin, this is precisely why you should be trying some of these classics. There’s definitely some alchemy at play when you mix gin with various ingredients. The strong backbone that is clearly present in the spirit by itself tends to elevate the flavors of the other ingredients when it is mixed. Rather than overpowering the drink, the combination is often revelatory and profound. It’s certainly not an experience you would get using vodka. So, don’t be afraid of gin in cocktails like the Southside. Today’s gins can only improve upon these classic recipes.
1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces lime juice
.75 ounces simple syrup (1:1)
1 bunch of mint, large stems removed
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Tear off any large stems of a bunch of mint and stuff the bunch into a mixer. Gently bruise the leaves with a muddler. Don’t mash them or they will become bitter and vegetal in flavor. Add your lime juice, simple syrup, and gin. Add a dash or so of Angostura bitters, lots of ice, seal and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a mint leaf.
A name like this makes you want to understand the Southside’s origin. Some folks argue that it’s a Chicago original, coming from the South Side. However, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support that claim besides improbable anecdotes involving gangsters and bootleggers. The more likely story is that it came from Long Island’s Southside Sportsmen’s Club.
You can definitely use a strong gin like Beefeater for this cocktail. I also use a lot of mint, but when you strain it, try not to get big chunks into the drink. The last thing you want is green bits caught in your teeth. You may choose to double strain this through a fine mesh strainer, but I don’t bother because I like the look of a few tiny green bits floating around. Technically, this is another sour, using lime juice and a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water simple syrup. If you are not sure about your limes, test the proportions using a dip straw with your finger over the end or by dripping your bar spoon onto the back of your hand. Getting a good balance between the sweet and sour can make a big difference. Finally, the mint leaf garnish can be floated on the surface, but it’s nice to give it a good smack beforehand and really get the oils out. You can also smack another bunch of mint over the top of the drink if you can spare the mint.
I don’t usually embed videos, but this is one of those opportunities that I knew of a great demonstration. There is a series videos called The Cocktail Minute by Toby Maloney. Toby is Head Mixologist and partner at The Violet Hour in Chicago, but his long history of raising the “bar” so to speak, in New York, has allowed him to build a solid reputation for his consulting company Alchemy Consulting, responsible for establishing cocktail programs at bars all over the country, including our own Bradstreet Crafthouse. Here’s Toby making our Drink Of The Week for you, the Southside: