THINK WE'VE COVERED ALL THERE is to cover about the martini? Think again. Aside from the time we spend making crazy cocktails from books, we also spend some time messing around trying to make new drinks. Most of the time it ends in disaster, a small amount of the time in success and this one time? Well, the less said about that the better. Let's just say the monkey's doing much better now. We should probably take a tip from Charles Dana Gibson and keep it simple, sippers.
Or rather, we could follow his lead and dare our friends to make great drinks better. The most likely origin story for this martini variation is that Gibson challenged Charley Connolly, who was the bartender at the Players' Club in New York, to improve the martini. Did Connolly substitute vodka for gin and add a bunch of fruity garbage to it? Hell no! He garnished it with a pearl onion instead of an olive. Genius.
Of course, it's just possible that the story's total bunk. Like most good legends, there are other versions. One involves an American diplomat named Gibson, a teetotaler, who, when attending swanky parties abroad, had the bartender fill his cocktail glass with ice cold water and an onion, so he could tell it apart from all the olive-garnished martinis. We, as a rule, try not to pick up other people's drinks in the first place, but maybe drink swapping was all the rage back then and hey, Europe. What are you going to do?
There are other variations on this, inevitably involving someone trying not to get drunk by drinking cold water with an onion in it, but seriously: That's gotta taste just horrible. Nowadays it's far more common to reverse the ruse: substitute gin (we recommend Plymouth English gin-- believe the hype) for the water, and everyone will think you're just pretending to be drunk.
Fascinated by the possibilities, we hit Sharrett's liquor store and picked up a bottle of Santa Barbara Olive Company martini onions, which are marinating in vermouth and vinegar. Also, we've come to the realization that just one ingredient that isn't the very best reduces the quality of a martini by about half, so forget about Martini and Rossi Dry Vermouth. Get some Noilly Prat. Here's the business:
2.5 shots of Plymouth English gin
1/2 shot of Noilly Prat dry vermouth
2 to 3 martini onions
Chill a cocktail glass, put the ingredients except for the onions in a shaker with ice and shake gently. Don't be doing the conga with that thing. You should kind of swirl it in the shaker. Pour into cocktail glass, garnish with onions. Welcome to the Gibson.
The onion adds a nice dimemnsion, what with the vinegar and salt combo. Straight up, these bad boys taste a little like a salt and vinegar potato chip, if potato chips were soft and round and marble-sized. A martini with a lemon twist is refreshing, a martini with an olive is savory and complex. With an onion, it's a cleaner savory taste.
While we're on the topic, I'd like to introduce the newest member of The Bottle Gang, named for the very drink we're discussing: Dr. Cornelius Gibson, or Gibson for short.
Dr. Gibson is a 9-week-old Shiba Inu, which we're pretty sure makes him almost one year old in human years, which we're pretty sure is legal drinking age for a dog. This photo was taken shortly after we drank him under the table. (McPHERSON)