Easy Gibson Cocktail Recipe

Even if you're not a cocktail aficionado, you've probably heard of the dirty martini. What makes it "dirty" is the olive brine, which adds a salty and savory flavor to an otherwise sharp and strong pour of gin. A different cocktail you may not be as familiar with is the dirty martini's pungent brother, the Gibson. A drink with mysterious origins, the most likely story is one that dates all the way back to the 1890s. Story has it that a man named Gibson believed in the medicinal powers of cocktail onions and requested one be added into his cocktail as a means to keep the doctors at bay (or he ticked off the bartender — there are many theories). 

Whether it was a concern for health or an act of spite, the onion garnish made its way into the martini for a uniquely salty, rich, and faintly sweet cocktail that naturally became a classic. For tips on building this simple, strong martini, look no farther than our recipe developed by Michelle McGlinn.

Gather the ingredients for an easy Gibson martini

A Gibson martini only requires one additional ingredient from a regular martini: cocktail onions. These are small white pearl onions usually sold in brine-filled jars. With the onions acquired, you'll just need the martini staples — gin and dry vermouth. Gin offers a uniquely herbal flavor, so if you'd prefer to highlight the taste of the onion instead, swap the gin for vodka.

Step 1: Fill a mixing glass with ice

Fill a mixing glass with ice.

Step 2: Add the spirits

Add gin and vermouth.

Step 3: Stir

Stir until chilled, about 15 rotations.

Step 4: Strain

Strain mixture into a chilled glass.

Step 5: Prepare the onions

Spear cocktail onions onto a cocktail pick.

Step 6: Garnish

Garnish drink with cocktail onions before serving.

What is the best gin to use for a Gibson?

Though you can use vodka in your martinis, we think gin makes things more complex, especially in such a bare-bones kind of recipe. Because a martini like the Gibson has so few ingredients, it's important to choose wisely. In a regular gin martini, the lemon (or orange) is the base flavor, bringing out the citrus and floral notes in most gins. That being said, you'd typically want a bright, floral gin, possibly with plenty of juniper, such as Roku, Hendricks, or Beefeater. 

In a Gibson, things are a little different. The onion, while slightly sweet, is still just as savory as the olive. Opt for gins that complement the savory notes rather than overpower it: Aviation, Plymouth, and Tanqueray are straightforward and dry, and any London dry gin will do the trick. Remember, you can also adjust the dryness with the amount of vermouth, too. Once you find the gin flavor you like the most, experiment with how gin-forward you like your Gibson by adjusting the vermouth.

How can I adjust the onion flavor in a Gibson?

In a dirty martini, the olive intensity is adjusted by adding or removing brine. The olive really acts as a garnish, lending just a hint of flavor (which is why we recommend stuffed olives). The Gibson, on the other hand, relies solely on the onion for flavor because the onions are soaked in a pickling brine, which adds a salty vinegar flavor to the drink. Certainly, if you like the taste of pickling brine, you're welcome to pour it into your Gibson, but that's not quite a classic Gibson.

To adjust the flavor of your Gibson, add another onion or consider slicing the onions in half before dropping them into the drink. Alternatively, you can stir the cocktail with the cocktail onion instead of using it as a garnish. If you're making a Gibson for the first time, start with just one onion, and increase the amount based on how your first few sips taste. And if you're making a martini for the first time, might we suggest starting with the basics, such a perfect gin martini?

Easy Gibson Cocktail Recipe
5 from 24 ratings
Meet the Gibson, the classic martini's edgy cousin. Just three ingredients combine to create the perfect savory sip.
Prep Time
Cook Time
gibson martini on a table
Total time: 3 minutes
  • 2 ounces gin
  • ⅓ ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 cocktail onions
  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add gin and vermouth.
  3. Stir until chilled, about 15 rotations.
  4. Strain mixture into a chilled glass.
  5. Spear cocktail onions onto a cocktail pick.
  6. Garnish drink with cocktail onions before serving.
Calories per Serving 256
Total Fat 0.3 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 23.6 g
Dietary Fiber 4.3 g
Total Sugars 10.7 g
Sodium 11.6 mg
Protein 2.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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