Roger Sterling with his "Gibson". Don Draper with his "Old Fashioned". (See Retro Cocktail for September...)
As with so many classic cocktail creations, this month’s RETRO COCKTAIL, “The Gibson”, has a history that’s more legend than fact. Stories and tall tales abound of pickled onions and various men named “Gibson”. A common theme is that of a businessman who wants to remain sober during an important three-martini business lunch. He calls the bartender aside and asks for his martini to be chilled water instead of gin, with a Pearl onion as the garnish instead of the customary olives. This way he can distinguish his faux martini from the real ones on the serving tray, which will allow him to keep his wits about him as the others get more tipsy and amenable with each round.
Another version... Back in the old days of the Martini, before the trend of dry, drier, and driest, the Martini was originally a one to one ratio of Gin and French Vermouth. For those who desired a drier martini (meaning less Vermouth), a pickled onion was added to distinguish it from its less dry relations with their olive accompaniment.
Another great story is this one from Wikipedia: “According to one popular theory, Charles Dana Gibson is responsible for the creation of “The Gibson” when he supposedly
challenged Charley Connolly, the bartender at the Players Club in Manhattan, to improve upon the traditional Martini's recipe. Connolly simply substituted an onion for the olive and named the drink after the patron.” So either the bartender was a Minimalist or a wise-ass, but regardless, a new drink was born.
As far as facts go, the first published recipe for “The Gibson” dates back to 1908, to William Boothby’s cocktail manual, The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them*. And even though “The Gibson” is essentially a savory dry martini with an onion instead of an olive, the onion somehow makes all the difference. (Make mental note to get good onions!) Which just goes to show (mixologists take note), that sometimes a cocktail’s uniqueness and enduring success comes down to what kind of garnish is employed.
*The original published recipe (see below) was not dry at all, but was the standard of the day, the one-to-one ratio for a Martini. (And no mention of the onion!)
2½ parts Bombay London Dry Gin
½ part Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth
splash of onion juice from the jar (optional)
Since this is actually a Martini, the "James Bond Rule" applies. Shake it or stir it over ice, depending on how Bond you are. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a pickled Pearl onion or a Cocktail onion.
BEST GIBSON EVER!*
3 parts Stolichnaya Vodka
½ part Shrub District Lime Cocktail Vinegar
½ part Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Onions Juice (brine from the jar)
Shake over ice. Pour into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with two Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Onions on a pick.
*This was the inspired creation of one of my favorite bartenders, Allison Arvay of Zynodoa.
And like its name states, it's the best Gibson ever! A wonderful savory balance between the
Vermouth-infused cocktail onion brine and the
Lime Cocktail Vinegar. With Vodka!
Roger Thornhill about to consume a "Gibson" before consuming Eve Kendall, in North By
The party in All About Eve. "A round of onion breath for everyone!"
The Gibson Bar, Singapore.