Gibson Martini – What are those things doing in my drink?

gibsonThe Gibson Martini is generally made with gin (or vodka), vermouth and a few pickled onions referred to as pearl onions.

In the great debate as to how to garnish a martini – what type of olive, stuffed or plain, how many – the Gibson, known for pearl onions, has been somewhat obscured. While originally branded for the association with Gibson Gin, the Gibson is now identified for those cute little white things regardless of the booze used.

As a public service to drinkers everywhere, here is the Gibson story. Or, should I say, stories.

First, while martinis are found all over film, books and TV (think James Bond), the poor Gibson is kind of obscure. Best I could come up with was the occasional drink by Roger Sterling in Mad Men, Cary Grant in North by Northwest, a Frasier episode (Stoli Gibson with three pearl onions) and not much else.

What I find fascinating about the Gibson, are the stories about how the drink came about. I found three.pearl onions

The most common one is linked to the 1930s and Charles Dana Gibson, the illustrator known for the Gibson Girl images. As the story goes, he challenged a bartender named Charlie Connolly at New York’s Players Club to create a “different drink.” The result was garnishing a martini with cocktail onions that became know as the Gibson.

Nah, I’m not buying it. Sounds like it came from some old school press agent.

The second one goes back 40 years prior to this. Mr. Walter D K Gibson is supposed to have had the first martini named in his honor at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. Apparently, this gentleman didn’t like the way they prepared gin martinis so he specified the brand and had them add pearl onions. Also, he believed eating onions would prevent colds.

I’m not buying this one either.

The story I subscribe to came from a good barman friend and we all know that the stories told over a bar are more accurate than anything on the Internet, not to mention other sources.

As Adam D. tells it, a savvy businessman and banker in the 50’s and 60s often found himself out with clients for the proverbial three-martini lunch. Unable to function during and after the meal, he had the bartender serve him cold water so he could remain sober while his clients got shit-faced. The cocktail onion was used as garnish so his beverage could be distinguished from the others. The banker’s name was Gibson.

Now, there’s a story I can believe.

how-to-make-a-gibson-martini

 

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Spirits Ads on TV

I write a monthly column for Spiritz magazine in India, which is the most widely read alcohol-related magazine in the country. My column is called Booze Abroad and the March issue contained a story on how the broadcast advertising (voluntary) ban for spirits was ended in the US.

While TV advertising for spirits has become widespread, it came about through the leadership of Seagram, but not without some ups and downs along the way.

The article is available on this blog with the permission of Bishan Kumar the publisher of Spiritz. To read it, simply click on the words, “Spirits Ads on TV” at the top of the column on the right.

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Brooklyn Booze

Brooklyn is known for many things – churches, the original home of the Dodgers, peculiar accents and pronunciations, the 3rd largest city  in the country (if it were a city) and my “hometown.”

It also has an interesting history in the alcohol industry particularly in
distilled spirits.

A previous posting mentioned Kings County Distillery, which claims to be New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery, the first since before prohibition. They produce handcrafted bourbon and moonshine and I intend to visit their operation and report back.

In doing my research about them, other distillers and the history of Brooklyn in the booze business, I came across some interesting information.

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