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Gibson Cocktail | The Queen’s Gambit’s Potent Potable

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.

Gibson Cocktail in Center of Chess Board

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?

Gibson Cocktail with Chess Pieces
Inspired by The Queen’s Gambit, we pulled out a chess board while we drank this 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

Making a Gibson Cocktail
While the Gibson’s history is a mystery, it’s simple recipe is easy to master.

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.

Gibson Cocktail on Chess Board
We recommend using a coaster instead of a chess board when you drink a Gibson at home.

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

Gibson Cocktail Ingredients
Besides ice, these are the only ingredients required to craft a Gibson cocktail at home.

Like many classic cocktails, the Gibson recipe has a short ingredient list with just the following items:

  • Gin
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Cocktail Onions
  • Ice
Liquor Bottles for Gibson Cocktail Recipe
We used thees bottles of Italian vermouth and Portuguese gin to craft our classic Gibson cocktail recipe.

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 order a jar from Amazon.

Gibson Cocktail Variations

Pouring Gin into Gibson Cocktail
We crafted this Gibson cocktail the classic way.

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.

Pouring a Gibson Cocktail
The last step of our classic Gibson recipe involves straining the gin drink into a martini glass.

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

Gibson Cocktail with Bar Tools
Making a classic Gibson at home is easy to do. Our recipe takes just five minutes to complete.

Crafting a Gibson requires the most basic of bar tools and no special techniques. You’ll just need a jigger, bar spoon and vessel for stirring the drink.

We like to stir our Gibson cocktail in a glass shaker but any vessel will do. The same goes for the glass. We like to use a classic martini glass, but you could use a coupe glass instead.

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.

Gibson Cocktail with Chess Pieces

Gibson Cocktail

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Featured on both The Queen's Gambit and Mad Men, the Gibson cocktail is cool, classic and tastes like a dream. Make one at home in just five minutes.

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. gin (3 small jiggers)
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth (1 small jigger)
  • 3 pickled pearl cocktail onions
  • ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Combine gin and vermouth in a shaker.
  2. Add several ice cubes and gently stir until liquids are chilled and mixed.
  3. Strain into a martini glass.
  4. Add cocktail onions as garnish.

Notes

  • We like to use a martini glass for this recipe but a coupe glass would work too.
  • We like to skewer our cocktail onions on a toothpick. You can use a martini skewer instead or simply drop the cocktail onions directly into the cocktail.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 238Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 8mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

Nutrition Disclosure: We used an online calculator to calculate this information. Though 2foodtrippers.com has attempted to secure accurate data, these nutritional figures are estimates.

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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.

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Kevin

Wednesday 18th of November 2020

What a great article. I've loved the Gibson for a long time, dating back to before I learned to appreciate olives. Here in the South, we also sometimes use pickled okra in our martinis for a whole 'nother taste.

Happy birthday Mindi! Hope you had a cocktail or two to celebrate! <3

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Thursday 26th of November 2020

Thanks for the tip - using pickled okra sounds fab though I'm not sure if we can find them in Lisbon. Either way, hopefully we can share some Gibsons with you and Stacy sooner than later!