There have been many theories about the name "Gibson." The 1904 date (below) rules out other Gibsons and might favor then-popular illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, famous for his 'Gibson Girl" illustrations.
It is often claimed that the "Gibson cocktail" was invented at the Players' Club in the 1930s or at the Old Waldorf Bar (a usual suspect). The New York-based Charles Dana Gibson illustrated for many national magazines based in New York; any bar could have come up with this cocktail name.
The Gibson cocktail was popular in San Francisco, and the cocktail may have been invented there in the 1890s at the Bohemian Club by Walter D. K. Gibson.
2 oz. Gin or Vodka, Dash of Dry Vermouth*
Stir with ice & Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, Garnish with skewered cocktail onions, *Omit vermouth if ordered dry
Zigy's Martini Lounge
And the winner is the Gibson (lovingly referred to as "Onion Soup"). Basically a Gibson is a dry Martini with cocktail onion instead of olive or lemon peel. But even something this simple is full of controversy over who invented it. There are about three different legends of how this drink come around.
.....One story has it that an American ambassador named Gibson serving in London during Prohibition wished to make his English guests welcome with a good cocktail. Inexplicably he personally felt constrained to follow his country's laws even while abroad. So during receptions he would circulate carrying a glass of water with a cocktail onion in it, while the guests would be served real gin. When someone asked his aide what the diplomat was drinking, the young man answered "a Gibson."
.....Steve Zell at the Occidental Grill in San Francisco says the name came out of Chicago. "You'll notice that Gibsons are usually served with two skewered onions. I heard that during the twenties in Chicago there were twin sisters named Gibson who loved Martinis but hated olives. Whenever they'd go out, they'd get the bartenders to use two pickled onions - twins for twins."
.....A more likely story is that Charles Dana Gibson, the famed illustrator and creator of the Gibson Girl, dropped into The Players, his New York club, and asked the bartender, Charley Connolly, to mix him "a better Martini." Connolly simply exchanged an onion for an olive and dubbed it the Gibson.
also told me this story: "The Waldorf's Old Waldorf Bar Days of 1931 credits the Gibson as being in honor of Billie Gibson, sports promoter, promoter of fights, famous in his day... forgotten now. Certainly doesn't make for such a culturally resounding Gibson story...... but that's rather an argument in its favor don't you think? --Doc."
26 June 1904, Atlanta (GA) Constitution, pg. B5, col. 7:
Dinner This Evening.
This evening at the Piedmont hotel, from 6 to 8 o'clock, the usual
elaborate dinner will be served.
Little Neck Claims
17 July 1906, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 5, col. 3:
13 February 1914, Los Angeles Times, pg. II4:
Pearlie is an authority on Egyptian cigarettes and knows exactly how much vermouth to mix in her Gibson cocktail--in fact she is a thoroughly modish and accomplished woman of fifteen summers and several hard falls, but thus far she has been overlooked by the great family journals and there has been no printer's ink illumination with Pearlie's toe flickering in the air like a pinwheel.
FALSE "GIBSON" ETYMOLOGIES: Billy Gibson, Walter Gibson
22 July 1947, New York Times, pg. 23:
BILLY GIBSON DIES
He was listed by police as being 65, but other records indicate he may have been 71. (...)
Gibson managed both Tunney and Leonard during the greater part of their boxing careers. He started piloting Tunney in 1920. (...)
Gibson, always a free spender and a popular figure in sporting circles, also was well known as a restaurateur. The owner of the Criterion Cafe in the Bronx, Gibson catered to judges, lawyers, politicans, boxers, newspapermen and show people.
Princeton Alumni Association
CLASS OF 1933
OBSERVATIONS FROM HERE AND THERE
John Bradley Green
The Gibson Cocktail.
The most cosmopolitan person, the only boulevardier I ever knew was my good friend, the now-departed Walter Campbell Gibson. Walter was a partner in the firm of H. Hentz, through which the master speculator, Bernard Baruch, traded in the 20s and 30s. Walter lived much of his life in Europe, particularly in Paris and knew everyone there. A moderate drinker, he favored the cozy, small Ritz bar in the rear of the Ritz Hotel on the Place VendÃ´me.
His favorite drink was a dry martini, straight up. In those days there was no such thing as "on the rocks". One day Walter asked for a pearl onion in his cocktail instead of the customary olive. Although probably not a usual staple in a prewar Parisian bar, the usual Ritz efficiency produced a small white onion with a little effort. Thus the Gibson was invented and named after the man who preferred an onion to an olive.
9 December 1964, New York Times, pg. 50:
Walter C. Gibson, a partner in Hentz & Co., 72 Wall Street, members of the New York Stock Exchange, died on Monday at the Knickerbocker Club, 2 East 62d Street, where he resided. he was 63 years old.
Mr. Gibson had been with the Hentz organization since 1928, when he joined its Paris office, then newly opened. He later was manager there.
He was born in Utica, N. Y., and attending Amherst College. Before joining Hentz he worked for the International Banking Corporation in China and for the National City Bank of New York (now the First National City Bank) in Barcelona, Spain.
Between 1931 and 1934 he opened two other branch offices of the Hentz company in Paris, and seasonal offices in Vichy, Biarritz, Nice and Cannes, France, and Monte Carlo.
Although it might be challenged elsewhere, it was widely believed within the Hentz organization that Mr. Gibson was the originator of the Gibson cocktail. He was said to have explained to the bartender at the Ritz Hotel in Paris that he liked his dry martini with a pickled onion in it. The barman promply christened the drink a "Gibson."
New York City • Food/Drink • (1) Comments • Thursday, December 09, 2004 • Permalink
I got the story of the origins of the Gibson Cocktail straight from the horse’s mouth.
My father, Hugh Gibson, was personal secretary to Under Seretary of State Huntington Wilson in 1910-1911. He had a considerable workload but he’d nonetheless go across the street to the Metropolitan Club to have a drink with his colleagues at the end of the day.
He couldn’t really afford to drink anything strong, since he had to go back to the office straigh after, so he had an arrangement with the barman who was told to serve him a glass of water with a little onion. If anyone else asked for the same thing, he was to serve a much stiffier drink. Soon enough, Hugh’s colleagues noted that he was holding his drink pretty well and got suspicious. What was the stuff in his glass? “Hey,” one of them called the barman and said: “Serve me one of those Gibsons.”
And that is the true story of the invention of this cocktail - which began its career as a glass of water.
Hugh Gibson did indeed become an Ambassador some years later.