Classic Gibson Cocktail

Gibson Gin Martini Cocktail Recipe

 The Spruce

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 cocktail (1 serving)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
415 Calories
1g Fat
52g Carbs
7g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 cocktail (1 serving)
Amount per serving
Calories 415
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 20mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 52g 19%
Dietary Fiber 9g 33%
Protein 7g
Calcium 108mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The Gibson is a popular drink that every gin lover will want to taste. It's been around for over a century (depending which version of its history you believe) and the recipe is incredibly simple... You may even know it already!

What is a Gibson? Nothing more than a ​gin martini garnished with a cocktail onion or three (never an even number—that's bad luck) instead of an olive or lemon twist. This simple change gives the drink a different undertone, transforming from a briny olive to an earthy, light onion flavor. It's fascinating and you may just prefer this recipe over the other.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • Garnish: 1 or 3 cocktail onions

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Gibson Gin Martini Cocktail Recipe
     The Spruce
  2. Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes.

    Gibson Gin Martini Cocktail Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Gibson Gin Martini Cocktail Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Gibson Gin Martini Cocktail Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Garnish with a cocktail onion.

    Gibson Gin Martini Cocktail Recipe
     The Spruce
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Tips

  • As with the martini, use a premium gin and vermouth, adjusting the ratio to suit your taste.
  • Cocktail onions can be found in jars at most grocers, typically right next to the olives.
  • The onion garnish also marries well with vodka when it replaces the gin.

How Strong Is a Gibson?

The martini and the Gibson are identical in everything except the garnish, so they are also the same strength. When made with 80 proof gin using the recipe's ratio, this drink weighs in at a hefty 31 percent ABV (62 proof).

The "Real" Gibson Story

A confusing history surrounds the Gibson. The standard story you'll find in almost every cocktail reference is that sometime in the 1930s, a magazine illustrator named Charles Dana Gibson asked Charlie Conolly at New York's Players Club to make "something different." Conolly used a cocktail onion to garnish a martini and the resulting drink came to be known as a Gibson.

Another version places the drink's creation 40 years earlier. In a personal email to me, Charles Pollok Gibson tells his family's story of the creation of the Gibson: His father's great uncle, Walter D K Gibson, was the real genius behind the onion-garnished cocktail and made the first Gibson sometime around 1898 at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco.

Here is Charles' account of his family's cocktail history in his own words:

"The story goes that WDK Gibson objected to the way the bartender at the Bohemian made martinis. He preferred them stirred, and made with Plymouth Gin. He also believed that eating onions would prevent colds. Hence the onion. In his version—which I've not seen in later bar books, a twist of orange was held over the glass so that a bit of the oil would fall on the top. The original Gibson—as with all martinis—was also sweeter before the First World War, with about a 1/4 ounce vermouth.

"WDK died in 1938. I remember that here in San Francisco in my childhood (the 1960s) my grandfather and all the old crowd spoke of the Gibson as being created here and by Walter Gibson, who was the brother-in-law of the "Sugar King" JD Spreckels. The first reference I have seen to it in a bar book was in one printed about 1911.

"...Unfortunately, I didn't know WDK Gibson myself but all those who did, my grandfather and my father and uncle, remembered him well and the fact that he invented the Gibson. He used to drink them until he died in 1938; and during Prohibition his wife, whose sister was Lillie Spreckels, insisted that the gin be prepared specially at home lest an inferior quality slip in. Alas, I have no idea what her recipe was."

So there you have it right from the source (or fourth generation from the source, at least).

Additionally, an interview with Allan P. Gibson was published by Charles McCabe of the San Fransisco Chronicle in the 1970s about his great uncle and the Gibson. This interview can now be found in McCabe's book "The Good Man's Weakness" (Chronicle Books, 1974).