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How to Make a Southside, the Gin and Mint Cocktail That’s Snappy and Refreshing

A subtle variation on a speakeasy classic.

Southside cocktail with gin, lime, and mint iStock/Getty Images

For such a clean, bright cocktail, the Southside is a drink of fuzzy lines. It carries a persistent confusion in terms of both how and when it was made, and honestly, the only thing everyone seems to be able to agree on is that it’s amazingly good.

Let’s start with where it comes from, which is the easy one: The story you’ll hear about the Southside is that it was a favorite of Al Capone and named for the South Side of Chicago, where Capone ran booze and played baseball inside and did other nefarious gangster-y things in the 1920s. This is exciting, and also untrue; Capone may have enjoyed the drink, but it first appears in print when he was a teenager, three years before he even moved to Chicago, in Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks

What’s more, the Southside is even older than that. According to Eric Felton in the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, it was a popular concoction at the South Side Sportsmen’s Club, a private hunting and fishing club in Long Island, and spread among the other exclusive clubs of the northeast on account of its quality. Still, these places weren’t hotbeds of cultural exchange, and it might have been lost to time but for that it became the house drink of the 21 Club, one of the most famous speakeasies in New York City. After Prohibition was lifted, the 21 Club went bonafide and continued to serve the Southside to their clientele of plutocrats and socialites for another 90 or so years, until they closed their doors in 2020.

As for how you make one: The recipe for the Southside is the subject of a very special kind of dispute among bartenders, one that’s both hotly debated and utterly mundane. Everyone agrees it is gin, citrus, sugar, and mint. But is the citrus lemon or lime? Is it topped with soda or not? Are there bitters? I’ll go ahead and tell you that there is no official consensus here, and while there are some interesting quirks to this story that we’ll get into in the next two paragraphs, if all of this strikes you as esoteric navel-gazing, feel free to just skip to the recipe at the bottom of the page.

The first printed recipe of the Southside, in Ensslin’s book, isn’t actually the Southside but the South Side Fizz: gin, sugar, lemon juice, lime juice, mint, and soda. This is where the ambiguity with soda comes from, and it makes total sense—a “fizz” was a general term for a sour made fizzy with sparkling water. By the rules of cocktails, this “South Side Fizz” with soda water would imply the existence of a “South Side” without soda water, right? Indeed, half the people seem to think so. In the 1934 printing of World Drinks and How to Mix Them by “Cocktail” Bill Boothby, we find a South Side, made with gin, “sour,” sugar, and mint. The 21 Club, by comparison, also dropped the word “fizz,” but never dropped the actual soda water, so the version you’d get there was gin, lemon, sugar, mint, and soda. 

Over the years, the space between the words collapsed and the “fizz” dropped off, so the “South Side Fizz” just became the Southside. Most modern bartenders make it without the soda. After all, if you want it bubbly, you can just ask for a Southside Fizz. As for lemon or lime, recall that the original recipe, in a precious and annoying tic of the early 1900s, had both. This is silly—it’s honestly delicious either way, but most bartenders take a hint from our old friend the Mojito, and pair the mint with lime.

So finally, at long last, we arrive at the Southside: Gin, lime, sugar, and mint. It is, as mentioned, clean and bright, brief and precise, with the snappy refreshment of the Daiquiri paired with the wintery verdancy of gin. Drinking it evokes nothing so much as an intrepid crown of mint, vivid green, poking up through a late season snow. Have one, and the most important bit of information becomes unambiguously clear, which is, as we said, this drink is shockingly good.


  • 2 oz. gin
  • 0.75 oz. lime
  • 0.75 oz. simple syrup
  • 6-8 mint leaves

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake hard six to eight seconds and fine strain into a cocktail glass. Take a single mint leaf in your palm and “spank” it with the other palm, slightly bruising it and making it more aromatic, and place it gently atop the liquid as a floating garnish.


Beefeater London Dry Gin

Photo: courtesy Beefeater

Gin: Good news! This drink is good with any gin you like. Mint is a universal donor to gin, so if you like your bottle at home, a Southside is good a drink as any to enjoy it. That being said, my favorite gin I tried with this drink was Beefeater, as it is with so many shaken drinks, for its ability to provide structure but not read too hot. 

Simple Syrup: First, start the stopwatch on your phone. Take a half cup of white sugar and put it in a small pot. Take that same measuring cup and measure a half-cup of water and put it in the pot with the sugar. Put it over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. No need to bring to simmer, once the sugar dissolves, remove from heat. Then look at your phone, realize it took you less than three minutes to make simple syrup, and resolve to never buy a bottle of it ever again. It’ll keep about a month if you put it in the fridge.

Mint: Most recipes call for you to muddle mint before you shake it. This is a waste of time—shaking with ice does the muddling for you.

Bitters: Lots of reputable people add a dash or orange or Angostura Bitters to their Southside. This tastes plenty good (as, for that matter, do adding soda and using lemon juice), you can do almost anything to this drink and it’ll still be good. I personally don’t prefer it—of the two I think Angostura it better, but Angostura shoves it into a different season entirely, the baking spices turning a little gingerbread-like and making it, for me, more like a holiday drink. Which is all fine and good, but it’s currently March, so I’d say skip the bitters.

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