Easy to make at home with just a few ingredients, this Gibson is a classic gin cocktail that’s 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.
Discover our favorite gin cocktails and our favorite dry vermouth cocktails.
You should be able to find pickled pearl cocktail onions at most grocery stores. If not, you can buy a jar online from Amazon.
How to Craft a Gibson Cocktail
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.
Discover 10 essential bar tools for home mixologists.
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.
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.
Gibson Cocktail FAQs
The Gibson is basically a Martini garnished with cocktail onions.
The Martini and Gibson are similar cocktails except for the garnish. While a Martini is garnished with olives, the Gibson is garnished with cocktail onions.
Gin, Dry Vermouth, Cocktail Onions and Ice
The Gibson is shaken, not stirred.
We like to serve this cocktail in a small martini glass but you could use a coupe glass instead.
Gibson Cocktail Recipe
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.
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.
- 3 ounces gin
- 1 ounce dry vermouth
- 3 pickled pearl cocktail onions
- ice cubes
- Combine gin and vermouth in a shaker.
- Add several ice cubes and gently stir until liquids are chilled and mixed.
- Strain into a martini glass.
- Add cocktail onions as garnish.
- 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.
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Lefonte Martini Cocktail Shaker, Irish Cut, 17oz
Riedel VINUM Martini Glasses, Set of 2 - 6416/77,Clear
OXO SteeL Cocktail Strainer
OXO 3105000 SteeL Double Jigger,1EA
Mezzetta Imported Cocktail Onions, 16 Ounce
Hiware LZS13B 12 Inches Stainless Steel Mixing Spoon, Spiral Pattern Bar Cocktail Shaker Spoon
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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.
Original Publication Date: November 18, 2020
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!