Gibson Martini

It's all about the garnish.

Gibson Martini
Photo: Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Christina Daley
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
3 days 1 hrs 25 mins

The Gibson — a variation on a Martini made with a splash of pickled onion juice and garnished with a pickled pearl onion — doesn't get enough love, but we're here to change that. On the spectrum of outlandish Martini variations, the Gibson sits on the classic, simple end, far away from more out-there recipes like ones that feature pasta water or even smoked salmon. Made simply with gin, dry vermouth, and salty brine from pickled pearl onions, the result is a balanced Martini with just enough salty-and-sour savoriness.

The key to a great Gibson, if you ask us, is to go the extra mile by making your own pickled onions. The flavor and texture just can't be beat, and you will also have extra to add to your next cheese board, salad, or sandwich. We might call for adding just one onion to each Martini, but don't let that stop you from sneaking in a few more into your glass. Unlike pickled red onions that you might find in a salad or on a taco, pearl onions are traditionally used in a Gibson. Their small round shape has a wonderful bite and can easily be skewered onto a martini pick like you would an olive in a dirty Martini made with olive brine, in lieu of pickled onion brine. 

This recipe makes a small batch of Gibson Martinis, perfect for hosting a dinner party for four four. Serve the entire batch at once for cocktail hour before a party, or even store them in the freezer to serve them cold on any occasion. For bartender-approved Gibson Martini’s store your glassware in the freezer right before serving, an iced-cold martini class or coupe will make for a drink that stays cool the entire time you enjoy it. Read on for everything you need to know about this classic cocktail. -- Lucy Simon


For the pickled onions:

  • 1 pound fresh white pearl onions, root ends trimmed, keeping root intact

  • ¾ cup rice vinegar

  • ¾ cup water

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries, slightly smashed using flat side of a knife

  • 1 medium garlic clove, halved

For the Martinis:

  • 8 ounces gin (such as Spirit of Hven)

  • 4 ounces dry vermouth (such as Dolin)

  • 1 ounce onion pickling liquid

  • 8 cups ice


Make the pickled onions:

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process, changing the water once, about 30 seconds. Remove skins from onions and discard. Transfer peeled onions to a quart-sized glass container with a lid.

  2. Bring vinegar, 3/4 cup water, sugar, salt, peppercorns, juniper, and garlic to a simmer in a small saucepan over high, stirring until sugar and salt is dissolved. Remove from heat; pour mixture over onions in container. Let cool 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days or up to 1 month.

Make the martinis:

  1. In a large mixing glass, combine gin, vermouth, and pickling liquid from onion mixture over 2 cups ice. Stir for 1 minute.

  2. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a pickled onion.

  3. Empty mixing glass and repeat mixing process for remaining 3 Martinis.

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