The Martini is probably the cocktail with the most twists and riffs. The variations are endless. One of the simplest tweaks on the classic recipe of dry vermouth and gin is the Gibson Cocktail. It distinguishes itself from the original just through the garnish.
Quick Facts Gibson Cocktail
- Method: stirred
- Flavor profile: dry
- How to serve it: straight up
- Glassware: Martini glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 22.5% ABV, 27.5 grams of alcohol per serving
The small alteration of the garnish in this recipe not only affects the visual appearance but also changes the taste of the drink.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Mixing glass
- 1 Bar spoon
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 2.5 oz London Dry Gin
- 0.5 oz Dry Vermouth
- 2 pcs Pickled onions skewered on a cocktail pick
- Add Gin and Vermouth to a mixing glass with ice and stir 15 to 20 seconds until well-chilled.2.5 oz London Dry Gin, 0.5 oz Dry Vermouth
- Strain into a coupe or Martini glass and garnish with pickled onions.2 pcs Pickled onions skewered on a cocktail pick
Ingredients & Recommendations
For the gin, I can recommend Sipsmith London Dry, Bombay Sapphire, or Beefeater. Both have a classic juniper-forward flavor profile and are excellent value for money. If you want something more exclusive, check out our selection of the best Gins for Martini Cocktail.
Nolly Prat and Dolin Dry are our favorites for the vermouth part. If your local liquor store doesn't have them on offer, Martini & Rossi Extra Dry works, too.
Best Way to Make a Gibson
The first question that comes up is usually: shaken or stirred? We say stir - as you should do with all drinks asking for alcoholic ingredients only.
The ratio for the Gibson recipe is the same as for a Dry Martini. That means a ratio of 5 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth is the standard, but subject to variation.
If you're a Martini beginner, a ratio of 2 or 3 parts gin per 1 part dry vermouth might be more approachable. I suggest trying the 5:1 formula and, if you are not happy, adjust the ratios in our recipe and give it another try.
Of course, the pickled onion is the star of the Gibson. If you want to make this savory garnish at home, here is a simple recipe - the ones from the supermarket are totally fine, though.
The Gibson is only one of the many different easy-to-make tweaks to the Martini cocktail. Here are some more variations worth trying:
- The Dill Pickle Martini - with pickle juice and pickle garnish
- The Vesper Martini - a variation invented by Ian Flemming, the author of the James Bond Novels
- The Lemon Drop Martini
The list doesn't stop here. Head over to our summary of the different Martini types for a better and more exhaustive overview.
Origin of the Gibson Cocktail
The history of the Gibson Martini starts right before the turn of the 19th century in 1898, even though today's main feature was missing back then.
These days, e know the pickled onion garnish as the main feature of the Gibson cocktail. But that hasn't always been the case. The first time the iconic garnish appears in written form is about 20 years after the first mention of the drink itself.
There are many small stories about this drink and how it developed into what it is today. The Gibson cocktail we know most likely is a mix of these different creations.
Possible forerunners of the drink
This narrative starts with a remark that dates back to 13th February 1898. Edward Townsend, author and former vice president at the San Francisco's Bohemian Club, mentioned the drink in a piece published in NY's The World newspaper.
In 1908, the first comprehensive recipe for making a Gibson got published by William Boothby in The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them. This early recipe uses equal parts gin and dry vermouth and explicitly states that cocktail bitters are not part of the formula and should be left off. No mention of pickled onions here.
Tom Bullock, the inventor of the Stone Sour cocktail, also published a recipe for the Gibson in his book The Ideal Bartender in 1917. His recipe uses 1.5 parts of gin to 1 part dry vermouth. No bitters and no pickled onions either.
However, in the same book, Bullock also published another drink called the Onion Cocktail made with Old Tom Gin and Italian vermouth. And this drink should be served with a pickled onion. So it seems this was what kicked off today's version.
Other theories about the Gibson
A famous story about the creation of the Gibson cocktail is related to Charles Dana Gibson. Charles Gibson was a renowned New York advertising illustrator and the creator of the Gibson Girl.
When he challenged Charley Connolly, a bartender at NY's Player's Club, to make him a better Martini, Connolly came up with his signature Martini recipe and added a pickled onion. Hence, the story goes, he named his creation a Gibson Cocktail.
Making Pickled Onions for the Gibson
Making your own pickled cocktail onions is not that complicated. However, the list of ingredients is relatively long. So, here's what you need:
- 1 pound of pearl onions
- 1/2 cup white or sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup salt (preferably kosher)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp whole mustard seed
- 12 pcs whole peppercorns
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 dried pepper
- 1 cup dry vermouth
Step 1: Start by peeling the onions. To do that, put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Leave them for a minute, then drain and rinse them under cold water.
Step 2: Cut off the root and top ends of the onions with a sharp knife. Then peel off the outer skins.
Step 3: Now, add all ingredients except onions and dry vermouth into a saucepan and bring the mix to a boil. Stir continuously until sugar and salt are dissolved.
Step 4: Reduce the heat and slowly start adding the onions. Let this mix simmer for 2-3 minutes and then remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vermouth.
Step 5: Then, once the mix has cooled down, pour the onions with the liquid into a sealable container and store them in the fridge. Let them sit for at least 6 hours before using them.
When stored in the fridge, your pickled onions will be good for up to one month.