Gibson Cocktail

Gibson Cocktail.

1/2 French Vermouth. (1 1/2 oz Dolin Dry)
1/2 Gin. (1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin)

Shake (well, I’d stir) well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top. (Garnish with cocktail onion.)

Interesting that the Savoy Recipe neglects the cocktail onion garnish. Or maybe they just forgot it.

Colleen Graham over at has written a nice piece debunking some of the stories about the Gibson Cocktail.

The Real Gibson Story

According to Miss Graham, she received a note from the family of W.D.K. Gibson, claiming he invented the cocktail around 1898 at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, some 30 years before Charles Dana Gibson claimed to have invented it.

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.

With Plymouth this would have been better around 60-40 than 50-50.

It is just too soft to stand up to that much vermouth.

Regarding the onion, since Craddock and the Savoy editors are often lax when it comes to remembering to include garnishes I was checking through various Gibson recipes.

Amusingly, P.G. Duffy, who does tend to be fastidious about accurately transcribing recipes and including garnishes, suggests a cherry(!) in the 1934 edition of “The Official Mixer’s Manual.” By the Beard edited 1960s edition that has changed to an onion.

The Gibson is also one of the cocktails pointed out in Beard’s introduction to the newer edition. He says something like, “we don’t make our Gibsons with that much vermouth any longer.” Oh how I dread reading “expanded and revised” on the cover of an edition of a classic cocktail book.

In any case, it seems, onion or not, at the time of the Savoy, the real differentiating point between a Gibson and a Martini is the lack of orange bitters in the Gibson.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

6 thoughts on “Gibson Cocktail

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  2. My Father and Uncle remembered WDK Gibson putting an onion in a Gibson in the late 1920’s, but I think the earliest Gibson did not have an onion. Charles dana Gibson, so far as I know, never claimed to have invented the Gibson. it was first attributed to him as a guess by Lucius Beebe in the Stork Club Barbook published about 1946. Beebe’s partner Charles Clegg, however did maintain that the Gibson was created in San Francisco. Herb Cain mentioned it, and Charles McCabe interviewed my uncle about it in 1971.

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