The Provence Gibson
~by Joseph Scala~
Back in 1999, in the beginnings of my restaurant career, I knew what a Gibson cocktail was:
essentially a gin Martini garnished with a cocktail onion. I had even made them once or twice for bar guests. But without my older brother Tom's endorsement, I might never have ordered this particular libation. He claimed the onions were "actually pretty good; you should try one."
A standard cocktail onion is small, white, briny, and slightly sweet, though they are less exotic-tasting than they seem. Unpredictably so, whenever I have this simple classic cocktail, the Gibson evokes far more emotion that I would expect. Of course, the association with my brother has me experience some nostalgia, but the cocktail onion also has its own allure. It's an unusual and rarely used bar garnish, a unique and almost secret drink ingredient that shows up once-in-a-blue-moon and only when the Gibson is ordered. In fact, one of several tales of the drink's origin describe the cocktail onion as a secret code: A gentleman, after his first drink, would regularly have the bartender serve him cold water disguised as a martini, but with an onion, so it wouldn't be mistaken for someone else's drink and thus reveal his ruse.
To bring a little of the Gibson magic to our bar, we've been making our own special cocktail onions and Herbes de Provence bitters. Our "Provence Gibson" is a close adaptation inspired by the original. We start with Plymouth, a classic, juniper-laden gin, and stir is with a healthy ratio of Dolin Dry vermouth. After double-straining the drink into a coupe, the surface is misted with house-made
"Herbes de Provence" bitters and garnished with one of our delicious bar onions.
Some will posit that the savory aspects of the Gibson make it a more sophisticated relative of the Martini, and the savory elements in our Provence Gibson are indeed highlighted. The atomized herb essence reveals itself as an herbal aroma each time the glass is lifted to the lips. We pickle the bar onions in house, seasoning the pickling solution heavily with juniper and coriander.
To make it at home, just follow the recipe below.
Or, skip the work and visit us at the bar...
2.5oz Plymouth Gin
1oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
4 spritzes of Herbes de Provence Bitters
1 Fleurie Bar onion
15 pearl onions. Red ones are a little stronger than the white ones. (peel & score with an x on trimmed root end)
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
½ cup sherry vinegar
1.5 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 tbsp juniper berries (loosly crushed)
1. Boil onions 2 minutes in salted water. Drain and discard water.
2. Pickling liquid: Boil water and vinegar with mustard, coriander, pepper and juniper until sugar is dissolved.
3. Pour over onions and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
Herbes de Provence Bitters
1. Pack a bottle full of dried thyme, rosemary, lavender and oregano. Add two teaspoons of a bittering agent (we use quassia).
Fill with Vodka and wait 3 months.