1215 cocktail onions cdlpim

Image: Mike Novak

The martini is really just a template. Most drinkers default to the crisp, classic combination of gin (or, sure, vodka) and dry vermouth, garnished with either a lemon twist or an olive. But if you, say, get a little wild and plunge a fresh-pickled onion into the mix? You’ve got a new cocktail entirely: the Gibson. Teardrop Lounge’s Daniel Shoemaker, for one, is a champion of this urbane sibling of the martini. “It’s all about the onion—it adds that zing effect,” he says. “It’s got a lot of high notes, a real acidic pull. I know I shouldn’t use words like piquant—but it’s piquant.” Indeed, crunching into that puckery, herbaceous allium reveals a whole new dimension of flavor—a delicate, savory essence that keeps you sipping ... and sipping. But because not any old onion will do, we persuaded Shoemaker to share the secrets of his house cocktail onions. Meet your favorite new garnish.

Teardrop’s Cocktail Onions

(Makes about two 32 oz jars)

  • 2 lbs pearl onions (not frozen)                                                       
  • 2 cups sherry vinegar                                                      
  • 1 cup salt                                                                      
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard seed                                                   
  • 48 juniper berries
  • 12 allspice berries
  • 2 dried chile peppers
  • 2 cups vodka

PLACE onions in a bowl, boil water, and pour over onions to cover. Allow to steep for one minute, then drain, rinse with cold water, and peel onions.

COMBINE all remaining ingredients except vodka in a saucepan with 1 cup water, and bring to a boil. Add onions, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool, and stir in vodka.

PORTION onions and their liquid between the two jars, seal, turn upside-down for 5 minutes, and refrigerate. Onions will keep for three weeks in the refrigerator but will be at their peak after one week.

If you have canning expertise, Shoemaker highly recommends canning your cocktail onions and storing them in a cool, dry place.

The Gibson

Combine 2.25 oz vodka and ¾ oz dry vermouth over ice, stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail onion.

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