Monday, June 1, 2009

Two Southsides

I don't remember the impetus, but some nights ago I fixed myself a Southside.

I don't usually give the Southside much of a thought, except when I'm at the "21" Club, where it's the official drink. Don't know why. I guess I've always considered it a rather uninteresting refresher. Plus, I think it's association with bluebloods has hurt its rep. WASPs have never been known for their exquisite taste in comestibles. With them, the blander the better. So, their favorite cocktail must be a bore, right?

But I must have not had the ingredients necessary for anything more complex, so I made a Southside.

Imagine my surprise when I slurped up a dose of a superior libation. I loved the Southside I made. In fact, I was in love with it. I wanted another. Immediately.

So what happened? Well, first, the recipe I had used from from the Beverage Alcohol Resource, whose five-day intensive course I had taken in spring 2008. I had never tried the recipe before. When I gazed at the formula, I remember thinking: I don't remember the Southside being this complicated. Here's what I saw:

2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
2 lime wedges
1 ounce simple syrup
2 sprigs of mint

Muddle on of the mint sprigs with the limes, lime juice and simple syrup in the bottom of a bar glass. Add the gin and shake well. Strain into a goblet over crushed iced and stir until the outside of the glass frosts. Top with soda and garnish with the sprig of mint.

As I sipped and sipped, enjoying myself thoroughly, I thought: lime? Wait a minute. Is lime right? I checked in a couple other cocktail books. Sure enough: most specified lemon, not lime. And none of them said anything about lime wedges being muddled. Is that why I suddenly liked the drink so much—because it was a different drink?

So I decided to conduct a taste test. I'd make a Southside with lime, and one with lemon, and see which was better. I tried to keep the recipes as close as possible to one another. I used the B.A.R. recipe for the lime version, and a Harry McElhone one for the lemon. I used simple syrup in both, and the same amount of mint. However, I did not use wedges of lemon for the second; the wedge thing seems to be unique to the B.A.R. version.

So, what did I learn? I learned I like me a Southside cocktail! Honestly, the two weren't much different. By a very small margin, I liked the lime rendition better; the play or sweet and tart was more tantalizing, somehow. But I didn't dislike anything about the lemon drink.

Then, finally (did the drinks job my memory? Is that possible?), I remembered where I had first derived my sense of the Southside. It was from a pocket recipe guide from the Museum of the American Cocktail. It called for lemon juice, and no ice at all. And it was served up, in a Martini glass.

The Cocktail Chronicles informs me that the drink I've been liking is actually a Southside Fizz. OK. I'll accept that. But why does B.A.R.—a group of guys that ought to know their stuff—call it a plain Southside? (Others do, too.)

I wonder what I'd get if I ordered a Southside at "21"?

Like many cocktails with a long past partly shrouded in the mists of time, there seems to be a lot of variation with the Southside. Just know this. If you're playing host to me and I ask for a Southside, I want the once with the ice.


Paul said...

I can't recall where I came across the Southside / Southside Fizz division; I'm accustomed to making them with lemon, though lime sounds like a good addition. And while I enjoy them both served up or fizz-like with ice, depending on my mood and on the temperature outside, when I ordered one from Murray Stenson at Zig Zag Cafe a summer or two back, he served it to me up, but with an ounce or so of champagne splashed into it. Is that a Southside? A Southside Fizz? An Imperial Southside? A French 75 that took a stroll through the mint patch? Who knows -- all I know is it's goddamn delicious, and one of my favorite drinks of summer.

Dr. Bamboo said...

The June issue of GQ has a sidebar blurb on the Southside. They call it the "Southside cocktail" and their recipe is:

Muddle a few mint leaves in shaker.
Add ice, 2 shots of gin, 3/4 oz. simple, 3/4 oz. lime juice, and a few drops Angostura. Shake and serve up or on the rocks.

Apparently this drink is very open to interpretation. ;-) Still sounds great though.

alchemistgeorge said...

I just had one at Bourbon & Branch, lemon, with no soda. I thought it incredibly good, in spite of, or because of its simplicity. More, more!

Pigtown-Design said...

I did a couple of posts on this earlier this summer. I cheat and use Mr. Lee's Southside mix. It's the uber-Wasp version, straight from the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club's bar. Yum!