In Midtown, 21 Club gives visitors the opportunity to get a history lesson from behind the bar on the origins of a timeless summer cocktail. Edible Manhattan’s Rachel Wharton filed the following report.
Easy-to-make and easy-to-drink, the Southside has been a summer favorite of East Coast socialites for a century. It’s also a go-to for city drinks expert Robert Simonson.
“It's very simple. It's gin, it's sugar, it's citrus, lemon or lime depending on who you talk to, and it's mint. And if it's made correctly the mint will be muddled very severely, very violently, so little flecks of green float up and down in your glass, and that's how they make it here. They're very good with the mint here,” Simonson says.
The 21 Club has been serving the Southside since it opened in 1929. But the drink's birthplace is up for debate. Some say gangsters from Chicago’s Southside doctored up black-market gin with lemon and mint during Prohibition. But Simonson says cookbooks prove it’s actually older.
“The other theory which has a lot more credence is based on a Long Island Club called the Southside Sportsman Club. It started in 1866 and it lasted all the way until the 1970s. Now the Southside cocktail has always been thought of as a white-shoe cocktail. It's a cocktail of the country-club set. So this would make sense because the Southside Sportsman Club, that was the playground of the Vanderbilts, the Belmonts, the Tiffanys - people like that, who were on the country-club circuit. Also the people who would have come to the 21 Club which has always been associated with the well-heeled,” he says.
Simonson is also of the opinion the Southside has long been under-appreciated as a summer classic.
“It's incredibly refreshing. It's a very good sipping drink if it's served as it should be, in a tall glass over ice. You can spend a lot of time over it,” Simonson says.
To try it, check out the recipe below. Better still, the bar at the 21 Club is staying open through August for the first time in years and a jacket is not required.
Robert Simonson's Southside recipe
2 oz. gin (Plymouth or any London Dry gin)
1 oz. simple syrup
3/4 lemon juice
Muddle several mint leaves along with lemon juice and simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add gin and ice. Cover with a mixing tin and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass filled to brim with ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.
To make simple syrup, add one cup sugar to one cup water then heat until the sugar is dissolved. Finally, let the syrup cool.