The Gibson cocktail is having a moment thanks to its appearance on The Queen’s Gambit. Easy to make at home with just a few ingredients, this gin cocktail is cool, classy and tastes like a dream. In other words, it’s a winner.
You’ve probably tasted a Gibson cocktail before. But have you crafted one at home?
We got the inspiration to craft the iconic drink in our home kitchen after binge watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. Though we’re not professional chess players, we’re always game to flex our cocktail muscles.
What Is a Gibson Cocktail?
In simple terms, a Gibson cocktail is a Martini garnished with pickled pearl onions instead of olives. The ingredients and presentation are so similar that some people refer to the Gibson as a Gibson Martini.
However, despite its similarity to Martinis, the Gibson offers a unique flavor profile thanks to its sweet and sour pickled onion garnish. These small white onions add a savory tanginess that creates a marvelous interplay with gin’s earthy juniper notes.
Gibson Cocktail History
The Gibson doesn’t have a definitive origin story, though the martini variation was likely invented in New York City by a bartender or barfly named Gibson. To us, however, the cocktail’s interesting history occurred in Hollywood.
The cocktail appears in multiple episodes in The Queen’s Gambit, a period piece miniseries set in the 1960s. While Beth and her adopted mother repeatedly imbibe Gibsons in martini glasses and on the rocks on the Netflix show, this was far from the Gibson’s initial claim to fame.
In recent years, Roger Sterling sipped classic Gibson cocktails on Mad Men while his comrade Don Draper downed an Old Fashioned or two. Long before Mad Men debuted on TV, Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill, another advertising Roger, drank Gibsons in North by Northwest while Betty Davis’ Margo did the same in All About Eve.
Gibson Cocktail Ingredients
Like many classic cocktails, the Gibson recipe has a short ingredient list with just the following items:
With so few ingredients, you’ll want to use quality liquor when you follow our recipe at home. We crafted our Gibson with Portugal‘s The Foxtale Gin and Italy‘s Martini Bianco dry vermouth after buying both bottles at a local Lisbon market. However, you can use your favorite gin and dry vermouth brands for this recipe.
You should be able to find pickled pearl cocktail onions at most grocery stores. If not, you can buy a jar online.
Gibson Cocktail Variations
Once you’ve tried our Gibson cocktail recipe, you may want to modify it to your personal taste. Here are a few ideas:
You can adjust the gin to vermouth ratio. Our recipe uses a 3 parts gin to 1 part vermouth ratio; however, you can adjust this ratio in either direction when you experiment with the recipe.
If you want to ramp up the acidity, you can pour in some of the brine from the cocktail onion jar. In this scenario, you’ll be drinking a Dirty Gibson.
Another option is to replace the gin with vodka. This is a great idea if you prefer the neutral flavor of vodka over gin or if you you’re temporarily out of the juniper spirit.
Finally, you can transform the Gibson into a Martini simply by using an olive garnish instead of a pearl onion garnish. However, you may want to follow a Martini recipe if this is your preference.
How to Make a Gibson Cocktail
As you’ll see in the following recipe, the only steps involve measuring, pouring, stirring and straining. Once you follow this simple Gibson cocktail recipe, all that’s left is to sit back and sip. However, if you’d rather stand while you sip, that’s okay too.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.