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The Gibson cocktail is a classic gin cocktail that’s sophisticated and simple: like a dry martini with an onion garnish instead!

Gibson cocktail
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Calling all martini lovers! Have you met the Gibson cocktail? This classic gin drink is essentially a martini with an onion garnish. This switch up on the classic “lemon or olive” garnish brings a savory element that makes it an altogether new drink. The Gibson is crisp, cool, searing, and spirit-forward, punctuated by the pungent onion garnish. Move over, Classic Martini: there’s a new drink in town.

What’s in a Gibson cocktail?

The Gibson cocktail is essentially a dry martini with a pickled onion garnish, instead of lemon or olive. Surprisingly, the garnish change makes it into an entirely different drink! Like many cocktails, the history of the Gibson is a bit murky. The most reliable story: it’s thought to have been created around 1898 by businessman Walter D.K. Gibson. Apparently he thought eating onions prevented colds, so he added this unique garnish.

The dry martini is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an official definition. The Gibson just adds a pickled cocktail onion! Here are the ingredients in a Gibson cocktail:

  • Gin
  • Dry vermouth
  • Cocktail onion
Gibson cocktail

The gin to use for a Gibson

Because the Gibson cocktail is so simple: use the best gin you can find. There’s only a hint of dry vermouth: the ratio is 6 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. So this cocktail is all about the gin! In terms of brand of gin to use in a Gibson, here are some notes:

  • Every bottle of gin tastes a little different and has different botanical flavors. Experiment to find your favorite!
  • We like Malfy gin for a martini, so it’s our choice for a Gibson.
  • Steer away from Tanqueray gin: in our personal opinion, it gives a strong floral quality to the martini. It’s better used in a gin and tonic or Negroni.
Gibson cocktail

How to make a Gibson (shaken not stirred)

Just like the dry martini, a Gibson cocktail should be stirred, not shaken. All bartenders know this rule: if a drink contains only alcohol, it should be stirred with ice. Here’s why:

  • Shaking in a cocktail shaker dilutes the drink with melting ice. This technique is used mainly for sour cocktails.
  • What to use for stirring? A cocktail mixing glass and a long bar spoon. If you don’t have one, you can use your cocktail shaker, a large metal glass or cup, and any long spoon. But if you want to look like you know your cocktails, use a mixing glass! Here’s a cocktail mixing glass we recommend.

More about dry vermouth

What’s vermouth? Vermouth is a fortified wine, meaning liquor has been added to the wine to preserve it. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet vermouth (usually red) and dry vermouth (usually white).

  • Dry white vermouth is what you’ll use in a Gibson. The flavor of dry white vermouth is crisp and clear: on its own, it tastes like a very dry white wine. Dry vermouth is also used in drinks like the Classic Martini and Dirty Martini.
  • Sweet red vermouth is something completely different: it’s used in drinks like the ManhattanNegroni, and Americano.

Vermouth is easy to find at liquor and grocery stores. Make sure to store vermouth refrigerated: it stays good for about 3 months.

Gibson cocktail

Drinks related to the Gibson cocktail

There are several drinks that are similar to the Gibson…try them all!

  • Classic Martini The only difference is the garnish!
  • Dirty Martini Serve it “dirty” with olive juice, and it rounds out the sip with a briny tang.
  • Vesper Martini Invented by James Bond, it’s become a true classic! Crisp and herbal, it stars Lillet Blanc with gin and vodka.
  • Martinez The father of the martini! This gin drink is like a cross between a martini and a Manhattan, starring gin, sweet red vermouth, and Maraschino liqueur.

When to serve a Gibson

This Gibson is sophisticated, dry and savory. It’s great as a:

  • Happy hour or cocktail hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drink
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Gibson cocktail

Classic Gibson Cocktail

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The Gibson cocktail is a classic gin cocktail that’s sophisticated and simple: like a dry martini with an onion garnish instead!


  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) gin
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) dry white vermouth
  • For the garnish: Cocktail onions


  1. Combine the gin and vermouth in a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds until very cold.
  2. Strain the drink into a cocktail or martini glass (purists chill the glass first). Garnish with cocktail onions.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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