The ’21’ Club in New York City is one of the most celebrated speakeasies in the country. The bar is still home to a multitude of Prohibition-era spirits from back when cousins Jack Kreindler and Charlie Berns quietly cut the ribbon in 1929. During Prohibition, the club was raided various times, but the pair was never caught.
When Kreindler and Berns designed the space, they worked out a system of pulleys and levers that could be used to tilt the bar’s shelves and dump liquor bottles into the sewer if the police showed up. They also hired architect Frank Buchanan to design a layout that contained camouflaged doors, hidden chutes, revolving doors, and a secret wine cellar that was cleverly located in the basement of the building next door. That room was once home to more than 2,000 cases of wine and has held the private collections of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Elizabeth Taylor, and many of the other notables who donned the ’21’ jacket required to enter the bar.
The club’s bartenders still make some of the same classic cocktails that their predecessors created back when the Volstead Act was still in place. One such drink is the Southside, a mixture of gin, mint simple syrup, mint leaves, lemon, and soda water. Bartender Mark Tubridy says that the cocktail has remained consistently popular for 90 years. “The cocktail’s origin remains a mystery to this day, which adds more to its appeal,” he says. Though some people believe the cocktail was created by gangsters on the Chicago’s South Side, “others claim that the origination was the Southside Sportsman’s Club on Long Island.” Some say it’s a ’21’ Club original.
Tubridy pairs the drink with ahi tuna or fresh oysters. The subtle taste compliments fish rather than trampling the drink’s subtler flavors.
- 2 oz Tanqueray gin
- 1 oz mint simple syrup (see below)
- 4-5 fresh mint leaves
- Juice of one lemon
- Splash of soda
For mint simple syrup, briefly boil equal parts water and granulated sugar to reduce slightly; add some fresh mint leaves and let cool completely. Place all ingredients in a mixing glass, and shake vigorously to bruise mint leaves (thus releasing more mint flavor and aroma). Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.