As the story goes, the Southside was named for the South Side of Chicago's bootlegging joints. During Prohibition, citrus and sugar were mixed with bathtub gin to make it drinkable. Even if it wasn't one of the creations of that era, it is still a delicious gimlet variation. In the years since, it has become an institution at many country clubs. Even Tory Burch has claimed a vodka-based version of this drink as her favorite. The version documented in Townsend's The Bartender's Book is gin-based, and the spirit's botanicals add a layer of complexity to the taste. Fortunately, we don't live during Prohibition, and many of the products previously unavailable in Alabama are now here. Experimenting with different gins will yield slight changes in the cocktail's flavor and body, but the citrus and mint are somewhat forgiving.
This beverage is best made while the weather is warm and mint is in season. Since we've only got a few weeks left that meet both requirements, shake one (or few) up for the perfect picnic/tailgating/afternoon tipple.
4-6 mint leaves
1 dash Angostura bitters*
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz gin of your choice
Lightly bruise -- do not pulverize -- mint leaves in the shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake for 10-12 seconds to combine. Strain into a chilled glass.
*Editor's note: the traditional Southside isn't made with bitters, but they add depth of flavor. Try it both ways!