The Ball Game Martini

Mother Cocktail Bar Toronto

Recently, I sidled up to the bar at Toronto’s Mother after a long day of word-smithing for my favorite cut-loose cocktail: a Gibson.

I love a traditional gin martini, but the Gibson holds my heart: It’s brine-y, savory, and in one fell swoop, it’s strong enough to help subdue the woes of a long workday. I like to think of it as the Martini’s rough-around-the-edges cousin: it’s just as deliriously easy to make, requiring just gin and dry vermouth, but adds pickled cocktail onion, dropped in at the end.

The cocktail was invented, so the story goes, by San Francisco businessman Walter D.K. Gibson in the late 1800s. At the time, the little alliums were said to prevent colds, and Gibson, feeling under the weather, dropped one into his happy hour martini. Now, the cocktail is set firmly in the canon of cocktail history.

I don’t even have a particular fondness for onions, but the gripping umami flavors of that simple onion coos to me in a way I can’t ignore. So nonetheless, I sat down at the bar at Mother, a fermentation-forward bar in the city’s West End, and ordered a Gibson. Helmed by a globe-trotting bartender and fermentation fanatic Massi Zitti, the bar highlights story-telling cocktails with a focus on local and foraged ingredients. Think G&Ts with house-made tepache, and kombucha brewed and bubbled in the in-house fermenting cellar.

Mother’s Gibson is a perfect example of the bar’s innovative thinking (and why I’m so keen on it). Made with Old Tom gin, grapeseed Gentian, and homemade smoked pickle, it tastes like a ballpark hotdog. The gin and bitter gentian aperitif will charm martini lovers, but a buck of smokey, briny pickle and lingering juiciness gives all the nostalgia of the beloved cheap-eats snack. It’s confusing, delicious, and satisfying on many levels. Odd, I know, but it’s a flavor I won’t soon get out of my mind.

The Gibson

Gibson Mother Cocktail Bar
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Be sure to check out last weeks martiniThe Hanky Panky

Kate Dingwall
Kate Dingwall
Kate Dingwall is a writer and editor, primarily covering the spirits and travel world. Her work has appeared in, Wine Enthusiast,, MAXIM Magazine, DuJour Magazine, Eater, VinePair, Culture Trip, Canada's 100 Best Restaurants, and a number of other publications, online and print. Outside of writing, she is a sommelier and an avid martini drinker.

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