First appearing in print in a 1908 cocktail book, the Gibson has enjoyed quite a storied history. While the exact origins of the drink are hard to pin down—there are about a half a dozen tales of varying degrees of credibility—the Gibson has shown up in Hollywood classics like North By Northwest (my favorite Hitchcock movie, in case you’re wondering) and All About Eve.
More recently, the Gibson has enjoyed a kind of under-the-radar rockstar status among cocktail geeks. Not as ubiquitous as its cousin the Dirty Martini, this drink is high-ranking among the relatively small number of cocktails that pull off a prominent savory quality without tasting like, well, alcohol soup. For me, the Gibson is a great cocktail to have before a night of serious eating: before sitting down to a late dinner at a steakhouse, or sipped slowly in anticipation of a holiday meal.
The defining feature of this drink is, of course, the cocktail onions. I have the good fortune to live down the street from the iconic Lower East Side pickle shop, The Pickle Guys. Their cocktail onions are perfectly crisp and briny, and do not reek of preservatives the way a lot of the industrial store-bought onions can (and, happily, they ship nationally). You are more than welcome to use the cocktail onions and their brine as-is, but I like to mix things up and transfer brine from their pickled beets to dye the cocktail onions a deep pink, to give the drink a bit of a borscht vibe. —John deBary
1 3/4 ounces
Plymouth gin (or other slightly-less-juniper-heavy gin)
1 1/4 ounces
French dry vermouth
cocktail onion brine (see author notes)
1 to 2
cocktail onions, for garnish
In This Recipe
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir gently for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe, or old fashioned glass with ice, if desired. Garnish with cocktail onions on a cocktail pick.