Cocktails in Movies #2: The Gibson

Cinema is probably one of the greatest influences in our lives. It is truly a powerful form of art that allows us to dream and be inspired. So, is it any wonder that we aspire to imbibe what our favourite stars are seen drinking on the silver screen!

The Gibson is next in line from our cocktail cannon that had received the cinematic stamp of approval.

The pickled pearl onion garnish in The Gibson is an appealing savoury alternative to the time-honoured Dry Martini. If you are a gin lover, we urge you to try it. Who knows, maybe you just might prefer the earthy onion flavour over the briny olive one.

Let us explore the appearance of a martini with an onion in some of the iconic Hollywood movies.

All About Eve — 1950

A 20th Century Fox movie that stars Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, and Celeste Holm, as well as Marilyn Monroe in a cameo role. It was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and was the recipient of 6 Academy Awards.

The movie plot revolves around an ambitious young ingenue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), who warms her way in and tries to steal the life of her favourite Broadway star, Margo Channing (Bette Davis)

The Gibson is Bette Davis’s cocktail choice in this movie. She is seen sipping on it when she says the famous line during a party:

“Fasten your seat belts. It’s gonna be a bumpy night.” — Bette Davis

This smart and sophisticated movie is one of those Hollywood classics that only improves with age.

North by Northwest- 1959

A Metro Goldwyn Mayer suspense thriller that was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and has Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason in the lead roles.

The movie is a tale of mistaken identity. An Ad executive in New York called Roger O. Thornhill ( finds himself in a world of spies when he is mistaken for someone called George Kaplan, a government agent who does not exist. He is relentlessly pursued by a spy named Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) in order to eliminate him. A harried Thornhill who had managed to escape his captives and is now implicated for a murder, goes on a run across the United States to clear his name. Along the way, he meets the mysterious Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint)

While fleeing the police and in pursuit of the elusive George Kaplan, Thornhill orders a Gibson while flirting with the beautiful Eve Kendall in the dining coach of the train.

North by Northwest is a gripping classic that laid the groundwork for many action movies to follow.

The Net 1995

A Columbia Pictures cyber suspense thriller that stars Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam, and Dennis Miller and is directed by Irwin Winkler.

A computer programmer called Angela Bennet (Sandra Bullock) who tests software programs at home stumbles upon a conspiracy when she receives a disc for testing from a friend.

Angela takes her first vacation in years to Mexico where she meets Devlin (Jeremy Northam) and falls for him. Turns out that that he was only after the computer disc and tries to kill her. One evening Angela’s purse is snatched and she discovers that her identity has been stolen. While trying to get to the bottom of it all and recover her identity, she puts her life as well as the life of her friend and therapist Dr. Alan Champion (Dennis Miller) in great danger.

When Angela first meets Devlin at the beach, he orders a Gibson and describes it as “a Martini with an onion instead of an olive.” Sandra Bullock orders the same.

History of the Gibson

The cocktail rumour mill is filled with numerous stories claiming to be the origins of this classic cocktail.

The most popular one involves Charles Dana Gibson, a famous graphic artist in the late 1800s. The cocktail is said to be named after his most notable illustration, the “Gibson Girls”. The Gibson Girls were heavily endowed, therefore the 2 onion garnish!

The story goes that Charley Connolly, the bartender at the Player’s Club, New York was challenged by Charles Dana Gibson to improve a Martini. Connolly responded by replacing the olives with cocktail onions in the drink.

Then there is a tale of a Stockbroker called Walter Campbell Gibson. Apparently, he requested an onion in his Martini at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and the kind bartender named the drink after him. His obituary in the New York Times in 1964 had noted this claim.

Another story is about a U.S State Department diplomat, Hugh Simons Gibson, who did not like to drink much. So, in order to keep up appearances when he went out with his colleagues, he would ask the bartender to serve him water instead of a martini and use an onion garnish to distinguish his drink from the others.

There is also a similar version perpetuated by a banker named Gibson during the three-martini lunches so as to keep him sober during negotiations.

Some say that it was named after a boxing promoter called Billie Gibson and others say that it is named after Walter D. K. Gibson, a San Francisco businessman. Apparently, he believed that eating onions could prevent one from getting a cold, so he would put one in his Martini whenever he ordered it at the Bohemian Club.

Most of these stories are debatable since the first mention of the Gibson Cocktail is in William Boothby’s The World’s Drinks And How To Mix Them, 1908. In this book, Boothby states, “ No bitters should ever be used in making this drink, but an olive is sometimes added” Back in those days, Bitters were used in The Martini Cocktails. The lack of Bitters is what distinguished the Gibson from the Martini and not its onion garnish.

In fact, the earlier recipes do not link the onion to the Gibson Cocktail. Jacques Straub’s 1914 book as well as Tom Bullock’s 1917 book The Ideal Bartender do not mention any garnish for the Gibson Cocktail. There is however another cocktail called the Onion Cocktail in Tom Bullock’s book which contains Gin, Vermouth, No Bitters, and is served with an onion.

In fact, the onion connection to the Gibson did not come until the 1920s and has remained a perpetual fixture in the cocktail till date.

The Gibson


  • 5 oz. Gin
  • .5 oz Dry Vermouth
  • 2 Cocktail Onions on a stick for Garnish


  • Add the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice and stir
  • Strain into a chilled glass.
  • Garnish with cocktail onions.

A good Gibson Martini hinges on the quality of the garnish, therefore pay close attention to the type of Cocktail Onions you use in your drink.

We recommend using a homemade garnish:

Pickled Onions


  • 1 pound peeled pearl onions
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • zest of one medium lemon
  • zest of one small lime
  • 1/4 tsp whole Coriander Seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Juniper Berries
  • 1/4 tsp Peppercorns — Black / Multicoloured
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 1 small piece of Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Chilli Flakes
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • A small pinch of Fennel Seeds
  • 1 cup White Wine / Sherry / Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 cup Dry Vermouth
  • 1½ cups Water
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt


  • In a Pot roast all the dry spices.
  • Then combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt over low heat and stir until salt and sugar dissolve.
  • Add onions and bring to a boil; allow to boil for just one minute and remove from heat.
  • Cool to room temperature and then add vermouth and stir to combine.
  • Put the pickling liquid and the onions into a jar. Add the thyme, lemon and lime zests.
  • Leave at room temperature for 1 hour and refrigerate for 1–2 weeks before using.

And to make it more interesting, try a Dirty Gibson by adding a small dash of the pickling liquid

Originally published at on May 18, 2020.




I believe that great friends and great memories are made over cocktails. Cocktails should not merely be used to celebrate special occasions, but to elevate an o

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