Classic Cocktail – The South Side

By Simon McGoram
Photography by Brandee Meier

The South Side may look all sweetness and light, but there’s every possibility that this summer tipple has a sinister history. One story on this potent potable’s origin is that it’s the brainchild of Frankie McErlane – a Chicago Prohibition era gangster who makes Al Capone look like a teddy bear.

Southside Fizz


  • 60ml Gin Mare
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 15ml sugar syrup (rich, 2:1)
  • 6-10 Mint leaves
  • Add all ingredients to a shaker. Add ice and shake briskly. Strain over ice into a highball glass (double strain if you must – though McErlane wouldn’t approve), top with a splash of soda and garnish with a fresh sprig or two of mint.

McErlane was a leader of the South Side Saltis-McErlane Gang and whilst he never quite achieved Al Capone’s infamy one of his lasting contributions to the gangland struggles was the introduction of the Thompson Sub-Machine gun (aka ‘The Tommy Gun’). McErlane was responsible for at least 10 murders and was famed for often slipping into alcohol fuelled psychotic states though he apparently could whip up a mean cocktail with his bootleg hooch. It’s rumoured that the South Side – a mix of gin, mint, sugar and lime was his way of hiding the rough bathtub gin he was flogging to Chicago’s speakeasies.

A conflicting story has it that the Southside (one word) was from New York – specifically that the drink originated at the Southside Sportsmen’s Club in the Hamptons. Indeed the drink was popular at the famed New York speakeasy the 21 Club which opened its doors in 1929. They promoted the Southside made with gin, mint, lemon juice and sugar as a house specialty – though they could have just as easily been handed the recipe by bootleggers and gangsters as by the country club set.

Whatever the devil the truth is one thing is certain. Spelled South Side or Southside, with lemon or lime – this is a tasty tipple. Over summer add a splash of soda for a Southside Fizz – a refreshing alternative to the Mojito.

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