Get a taste of western legend (and history) with the Gibson cocktail and elevated bar snack pairings.
Exactly how and when the martini got garnished with a cocktail onion and became the Gibson isn’t clear. If you ever watched Mad Men and noticed it was Roger Sterling’s cocktail of choice, you might have thought the drink came from Madison Avenue in the 1960s. But the origin story we subscribe to — and the one that makes it a quintessentially Western drink — says this gin and vermouth concoction came from the other coast about 60 years before Sterling ever sipped one.
Legend and quite a few documented sources have it that San Francisco businessman Walter D.K. Gibson (1864 – 1938) created the drink in 1898 at the city’s storied all-male Bohemian Club. Founded in 1872 as a place where journalists who enjoyed the arts could get together after work, the Bohemian Club was soon admitting as many businessmen, entrepreneurs, and bon vivants as it was writers, artists, and musicians — all of whom drank in suitably bohemian fashion while seeing to the club’s mission of fostering a fraternal connection among art and culture lovers. Objecting to the way the bartender made martinis, Gibson, who preferred them stirred and made with Plymouth gin, built one his way — adding a cocktail onion (which he believed prevented colds) and, in a little-known embellishment not even found in bartending books, a twist of orange over the glass so that a bit of the oil fell on the top (this, according to Charles Pollok Gibson of San Francisco, whose father’s great uncle was W.D.K. Gibson).
Fast forward to 2013 and head overland to the Windy City, where they’re serving their own version of the Gibson at the tavern at South Water Kitchen adjacent to the newly renovated Hotel Monaco Chicago overlooking the Chicago River. Here’s a version of the classic cocktail created by head bartender Sarah Mengoni.
2½ ounces gin (preferably Beefeater)
½ ounce dry vermouth (preferably Lillet)
Pickled onions, for garnish
Mix in a cocktail shaker and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a pickled onion.
To go with your Gibsons, try the barbecue spiced nuts and duck jerky. If bar snacks aren’t going to slake your appetite, we have it on good authority that the South Water Kitchen’s food is tops.
Barbecue Spiced Nuts
1¼ cup smoked paprika
1¼ cup salt
½ cup black pepper
½ cup chili powder
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ginger
Mix all ingredients until well combined. Set aside.
5 pounds assorted nuts
5 egg whites
Whisk egg whites until foamy and hold stiff peak. Combine egg whites, barbecue seasoning, and nuts until nuts are well covered. Spread on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, stirring the nuts every couple of minutes, until the nuts are toasted and dry. Store covered at room temperature.
3 pounds skinless, duck breast
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons dried ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup blood orange purée
Freeze duck breast to make it easier to slice thin. Slice the duck breasts into roughly ⅛-inch strips. Mix remaining ingredients well in a large bowl. Put the meat into the marinade and massage it all around to coat evenly. Let this marinate for at least 10 minutes (but no longer than 30 or it will get too salty).
Either follow your dehydrator’s instructions for making jerky, or lay the strips on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet to catch the drippings. Set the rack in an oven set on 200 degrees until the meat is dried out, but still pliable — about 10 minutes.
Store either in the fridge indefinitely, or at room temperature.
For more information on the South Water Kitchen tavern or the Hotel Monaco Chicago, visit the hotel’s website.