Skip to Content

This article contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Gibson Cocktail: Classic, Classy and Cool

Easy to make at home with just a couple ingredients, this Gibson is a classic gin cocktail that’s cool, classy and tastes like a dream. In other words, it’s a winner.

Gibson Cocktail in Center of Chess Board
Image: ©2foodtrippers

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.  | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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 of 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. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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
Besides ice, these are the only ingredients required to craft a Gibson cocktail at home. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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

  • Gin
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Cocktail Onions (garnish)
  • Ice Cubes (for shaking)
Liquor Bottles for Gibson Cocktail Recipe
We used thees bottles of Italian vermouth and Portuguese gin to craft our classic Gibson cocktail recipe. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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.

How to Craft 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. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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.


Pouring Gin into Gibson Cocktail
We crafted this Gibson cocktail the classic way. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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.

Discover 10 essential bar tools for the home mixologist.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Gibson Cocktail?

The Gibson is basically a Martini garnished with cocktail onions.

What’s the difference between a Martini and the Gibson?

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.

What are the ingredients in a Gibson?

Gin, Dry Vermouth, Cocktail Onions and Ice

Is the Gibson shaken or stirred?

The Gibson is shaken, not stirred.

What type of glass is best for the Gibson?

We like to serve this cocktail in a small martini glass but you could use a coupe glass instead.

Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.

Gibson Cocktail with Chess Pieces
Pin Recipe Print Recipe
4.80 from 5 votes

Gibson Recipe

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.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Drink
Cuisine: Cocktail
Servings: 1
Calories: 277kcal



  • Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass.
  • Add several ice cubes and gently stir until liquids are chilled and mixed.
  • Strain into a martini glass.
  • Add cocktail onions as garnish.

Pro Tips

  • 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 cocktail pick. You can simply drop the cocktail onions directly into the cocktail instead.

Estimated Nutrition

Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.04g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 160mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 0.3mg
Are you inspired by this recipe?If so, subscribe to our mailing list for more inspiration.

Thirsty For More Gin Cocktails?

Clover Club Cocktail - Social IMG
Clover Club Recipe
Gin Gimlet Cocktail - Social IMG
Gimlet Recipe
Hanky Panky Cocktail Social IMG
Hanky Panky Recipe
Red Beach Selfie in Santorini

About the Authors

Daryl and 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. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.


Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

We purchased the ingredients and tools used to craft this cocktail.

Original Publication Date: November 18, 2020

Recipe Rating


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!

Get our free guide to eating like a local when you travel.