Gibson vs. Gimlet

Normally I do one cocktail on Fridays. But today when I was trying to decide what to mix up, I had an interesting conversation with Hubs:

Me: Will you drink a Gimlet if I make it for the blog?

Hubs: Isn’t that a martini with an onion?

Me: I thought it had lime juice in it.

Hubs: I thought that was a Gibson.

Me: (pulling out one of my many cocktail books) Okay. I guess I should look it up.

Now if you’ve never confused these two cocktails, I apologize for lumping you in with the lame brains that are Hubs and I. But I figured if we confused them, there are probably a few other people out there who do as well.

It’s easy to understand why the confusion happens. Both cocktails are made with gin, both are served straight up in a cocktail (or martini) glass and both start with “G”. But that’s where their similarities end. These two cocktails taste absolutely nothing alike.

If you’re a martini fan, you’ll probably adore the Gibson, as the only difference between this drink and the classic martini is that one is served with an olive (or two) and the other is served with a pearl onion (or two). You can even switch out the gin for vodka, just like the martini too. The Gimlet, on the other hand, is a much sweeter beverage that even a cocktail virgin will find delightful. Rather than it being mostly gin with a hint of vermouth, the Gimlet is equal parts gin and Rose’s lime juice, making it the perfect choice for a warm summer night. But don’t think for a second that just because it’s sweeter it doesn’t pack a punch. Trust me when I tell you this sweet “G” is just as potent as the dry “G”.

Though many believe that the Gibson was created by Life magazine illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson in the 30’s, it turns out it was actually created right around the turn of the century by San Franciscan Walter D.K. Gibson. The story goes that W.D.K. Gibson objected to the way the bartender at the Bohemian made martinis. He preferred them stirred and wanted the onion instead of the olive simply because he believed that eating onions prevented colds.

Unlike most cocktails I post on here, the Gimlet was not created in a bar, but rather on board a ship. It was created by Dr. Gimlette in the late 19th century as a way to make sure the sailors of the British Royal Navy got their lime juice so as not to contract scurvy.  According to the Field Guide to Cocktails, Dr. Gimlette thought that gin alone might cloud the sailors’ minds, and adding lime juice would prevent that. (But I guess that all depends on what the ratio of gin to lime juice is.) The Gimlet gained popularity in the 50’s when novelist Raymond Chandler decided to make it Philip Marlowe’s drink of choice.

So there you have it. While the cocktails may sound similar, they most definitely are not. From their taste all the way to their origins, these two cocktails couldn’t be more different. But both are definitely worth a sip… or two.



  • 2 oz. dry gin
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 pearl onion


  1. Pour the gin and vermouth into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a skewered pearl onion and serve.




  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Rose’s Lime juice
  • lime wedge


  1. Pour the gin and lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a wedge of lime and serve.