A cool summer fling

The Southside is peculiar to Baltimore, which is peculiarly afflicted by summer. It's flush with lemon and lime and mint and rum.

 

The classic rum drink "Southside". (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / June 29, 2010)

Sarah's a straight arrow. The punctual, opinionated, pennywise type. Though she can let loose. Seat her next to a platter of miniature coconut cupcakes and the girl will munch not one. But two!

So when she dropped by for a Southern-style garden party, I offered her a Southside.

The Southside is peculiar to Baltimore, which is peculiarly afflicted by summer. It's flush with lemon and lime and mint and rum. The native insists it shares nothing with the mojito (save lime and mint and rum).

Frankly, the cloudy Southside knows a cloudy pedigree. The cocktail historian traces its background to the South Side of Chicago, where its fruity flavor once masked bad bathtub overtones. The cocktail columnist claims it calls for gin. The cocktail connoisseur would sooner resign his country-club membership than swallow such swill.

In Maryland, many a purist insists that the Southside can only be rendered by Mr. George Lee, one-time bartender at the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, now 80-something Southside-mix entrepreneur. The local calls and he graciously drops by with a bottle. The interloper asks how she can squeeze her own. To which he explains: You can't.

Nonetheless, I've tried. My version may not duplicate Mr. Lee's sunshine-sweet elixir, but it's good. And good for what ails us all these days: summer.

Even Sarah declared it delicious. Which is saying a lot for someone who regularly downs one to two cocktails. Per year.

The next night I saw Sarah at a big bash. She was wandering the edge of the dance floor looking forlorn. No Southsides, she reported. I was proud of her: considering her second drink so soon. And I was proud of me, for pointing her toward wayward.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.

leahreskin@aol.com

Southside

Prep: 10 minutesChill: 2 hours

Makes: Enough mix for about 8 drinks

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

6 lemons

6 limes

1 cup (loosely packed) mint leaves

Club soda, chilled

Rum (Mount Gay would be traditional)

1 Steep: Pour water and sugar into a medium saucepan. Zest 4 lemons; toss in zest. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 3 minutes.

2 Juice: Squeeze all lemons and limes; measure out 2 cups (combined) juice. Add juice to zest mixture.

3 Chill: Strain lemon mixture into a clean, wide-mouthed glass jar. When cool add half the mint. Cover and chill.

4 Pour: For each drink settle a few of the remaining mint leaves in a tall 12-ounce glass. Fill with ice. Pour in 2 ounces Southside mix, 2 ounces rum, 2 ounces soda. Enjoy.

Provenance: Inspired by legends of the Baltimore Southside, as well as a few sips of Mr. Lee's top-secret elixir.

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