Cocktail Onions + Gibson Cocktail

A little while ago, I attempted Kevin West’s recipe for pickled cocktail onions from his book, Saving the Season. It’s not so much that I felt an urgent need to have them stocked in my pantry, but ….they’re undeniably adorable. And I love pickles. And cocktails.

I started peeling them while cozy on my couch (while watching Netflix, of course). After a few onions had shed their skins, I found myself crying over the bowl and moved to the chair on the front porch, where I felt rather old world. Too bad it wasn’t a rocking chair (and perhaps a sunset view of a sprawling acreage).  I’ve since realized that it’s much easier to pop the diminutive onions into some hot water and then into an ice batch, and slip them out of their skins.


Cocktail onions are little pickles used instead of olives in the variation of a classic martini: The Gibson. These little jewels are equally at home in a Bloody Mary or Caesar, on a nice cheese/charcuterie board, or alongside a steak or roasted meats.

(Recipe adapted from Kevin West’s Saving the Season)

1-Week Cold Brine:
1 pound cocktail onions
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups water

Vinegar + Spices:
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
4  allspice berries, cracked
5 juniper berries, crushed
3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon prepared or fresh-grated horseradish

Hot Brine:
1 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2-3 juniper berries for each jar

  1. Cold Brine & Vinegar: Peel the onions, and trim the ends. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour over onions in a non-reactive container (I used a mason jar). The onions will need to be weighed down with something (also non-reactive, such as a small lid) to keep them submerged beneath the brine.
    Mix together the ingredients for the Vinegar + Spices in a separate non-reactive container (again, I used a jar). Store both containers in the fridge for one week.
  2. Hot Brine: Drain and rinse the onions. Pack into sanitized jars* (four 1/2 pint) with a 1/2″ headspace.
    Strain the vinegar through cheesecloth/sieve into a saucepan. Add the water and kosher salt for the Hot Brine, and bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine into the jars with the onions, leaving the 1/2″ headspace. Add 2-3 juniper berries to each jar and seal.
    For fridge pickles (no canning necessary): Allow to cure in the refrigerator for at least a week, and consume within a few weeks.
    For long-term storage on the shelf: Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.* Leave on the shelf to cure for at least a week.

*Please refer to a USDA or extension guide for complete safe canning instructions. One example: Virginia Cooperative Extension: Boiling Water Bath Canning



This cocktail is essentially a martini with an onion (rather than the standard twist or olive). As with a traditional martini, you will find many gin/vermouth ratio variations across the Gibson recipes. Adjust ratios as desired.

2oz Gin
0.5oz Dry Vermouth
Cocktail Onions

Chill a martini glass in the freezer, or by putting a couple ice cubes in it for a few minutes. Stir the gin and vermouth with a few ice cubes for around 20 seconds. Strain into the pre-chilled glass and garnish with an onion (or two, or three). Optional: splash with a bit of the pickling liquid.


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  1. Such beautiful pictures, and a great narrative! I was thrilled that you included a Gibson recipe after teasing us with thoughts of cocktails. :)

  2. I’ve never tried pickling or a Gibson, but after reading this I’m going to have to give it a whirl!

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