The Onion Vanishes 1.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Spirits Feb 26, 2014

Lurking at the bottom of every classic Gibson cocktail is a pickled onion, which can be crunched before or after the drink is consumed..

This variation spirits away the onion itself and instead suffuses the drink with a red onion shrub, an acidic fruit syrup. The Gibson in downtown Washington uses an aged genever in its version, but a good London dry-style gin will also work here.

Traditionally, martinis -- including a traditional Gibson -- should be stirred. We suggest shaking The Onion Vanishes because the red onion shrub, once chilled, is thicker than the gin and vermouth; combining them benefits from a more vigorous agitation

Make Ahead: The red onion shrub can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 1 servings

  • For the shrub
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • For the drink
  • Ice
  • 2 ounces genever, such as Boomsma Oude Fine Genever (may substitute a good, London-style dry gin)
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth, such as Dolin Dry


For the shrub: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, thyme and white pepper; cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and beginning to caramelize.

Pour in the water and the vinegar; increase the heat to medium. Gradually stir in the sugar and the salt. Once they have dissolved, cook at a low boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low; cook for 10 minutes, stirring as needed.

Cool completely, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer or several layers of cheesecloth into a container with a tight-fitting lid. The yield is 2 cups.

For the drink: Chill a cocktail (martini) glass. Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add the genever, dry vermouth and 3/4 ounce of the shrub. Shake or 30 seconds. Strain into the martini glass.

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Recipe Source

Inspired by the Gibson in downtown Washington.

Tested by M. Carrie Allan.

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