Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I’m a cocktail onion addict.
Whew! There, I said it. It was love at first sight – I remember that night so clearly: My friends and I were sitting in a dimly-lit corner of a New Orleans restaurant during Tales of the Cocktail and were primed to order our first round of drinks. Our local Absolut Elyx brand ambassador, Kyle Paris, was with us and suggested that I try the Gibson martini, and I’M SO GLAD I LISTENED TO HIM. (He knows things sometimes.) I love me a well-made dry martini, but when you garnish it with a crunchy, briny, house made cocktail onion? Game over. Take me away.
What I couldn’t believe was how long it took me to eat my first ever cocktail onion. In all honesty, I vaguely remember seeing the little pearls on various bar tops, but it never occurred to me that they were briny. I always thought they were raw, and I’m definitely not a fan of eating raw onions. Yuck. However, now that Kyle had set me straight, I had so many questions. Why have my bartender buddies been withholding this pickled treasure from me? Do all of my favorite bars back home have cocktail onions? If so, do they make the cocktail onions in-house? Am I the only one with whom Kyle shared this brilliance?
I needed answers.
My Dallas Gibson cocktail discovery mission had a rough start. I had the unfortunate incident of receiving a Gibson that was garnished with cocktail onions from the bottom of a very large, very old-looking jar. (The bar name will be withheld to protect the not at all innocent.) To say the least, it was an unpleasant experience – the onions lacked the freshness and crunch that I enjoyed so much with my first Gibson. I learned a paramount lesson that night: Store-bought jarred cocktail onions be gone. Say it with me: House made garnishes only!
That’s when I partnered up with Kyle to organize the first ever (as far as I know anyway) Absolut Elyx Gibson Tour. We reached out to some of our favorite bartenders around the city to see if any would be interested in coming up with their own cocktail onion recipes. As it turns out, many of them were.
Six friends on average at each boozy stop.
Who knows how many Gibsons to consume.
The Absolut Elyx Tour was officially on.
STOP #1: VICINI
Our first stop was in the ‘burbs at Vicini Frisco. Barman Brian McCullough served up some delightful Elyx cocktails with his variation of the cocktail onion – pickled spring onion bow ties. I really enjoyed Brian’s version; it had welcome, grassy notes, the familiar brininess, and a touch of whimsy. What’ s not to love?
STOP #2: BOULEVARDIER
From Frisco, the Tour braved Friday rush hour traffic all the way down to Bishop Arts District to pay Boulevardier a visit. This popular restaurant/bar is one of the few spots that already make their own cocktail onions. Ashley Williams made an excellent classic onion garnish; so excellent, in fact, that I enjoyed six of them. (Two onions per cocktail, carry the three … you do the math.)
STOP #3: THE MITCHELL
After two delightful stops, the Tour was starting to hit its stride. From Boulevardier, we Uber’d our way downtown to The Mitchell where they offered not one but two cocktail onions to sample that night, one in a “garden brine” and one made with hatch chilis. I’m a bit of a spice wimp so I steered clear of anything marinating in a hatch chili situation, so I opted for the garden variety. Without hesitation, I popped the onion in my mouth, anticipating a deliciously briny vegetable medley. What I got instead was a mouthful of sharp, raw onion. Oh boy, that was surprising. No kissing for me that night for sure. I downed the rest of my Gibson to alleviate the biting flavor.
STOP #4: MIDNIGHT RAMBLER
Without hesitation, the Elyx Gibson Tour soldiered on to a tried and true spot down the street, Midnight Rambler. They garnish their Gibson, The Silvertone, with a mighty fine and smoky chipotle onion, to which I was no stranger. The Elyx was flowing and skewers of golden brown onions perched on about half of the cocktails on the bar top for a solid hour. This was the 4th stop on the tour and the group was feeling gooooooood — and Susie had finally joined us. (A little tardy to the party.)
By the time we made it to the fifth and last stop of the night, most of our friends had already bid us farewell. So then there were the final four.
STOP #5: HIGH & TIGHT
We approached the bar at High & Tight, excited to see what our favorite bar-behind-a-barbershop’s man behind the stick, Austin Gurley, had in store for us, and I am so happy that we made it to the last stop. The cocktail onion was so surprisingly flavorful, with citrusy notes of grapefruit and a spicy, peppery kick. It was by far our favorite of the night!
The Elyx Gibson Tour proved a success, and what kind of cocktail onion addict would I be if I didn’t try to cover more ground? A few days after the tour, I visited Hugo Osorio at The Theodore to sample the onion batch he prepared. The onions were wonderfully balanced with crunchiness, brininess, and jalapeño spiciness … so yeah, pretty much cocktail onion heaven.
This last Gibson falls outside of the Dallas area … like, really far outside. But, due to its Absolut awesomeness, it had to be included. A few weekends ago, I went to Chicago and had the pleasure of ordering the Elyx Gibson off of Vol. 39‘s brand spanking new cocktail menu at The Kimpton Gray Hotel. As far as I was concerned, it was kismet. The cocktail onion had bursts of Chinese five-spice and red wine vinegar. It sparkled atop my glass like a garnet jewel. If you ever find yourself in downtown Chicago, don’t think twice before visiting this bar. Thank me later.
I write this in hopes of drawing out existing Gibson lovers and converting the Gibson-ly ignorant into cocktail onion enthusiasts. And then, maybe one day, this particular tipple will experience a comeback of Old Fashioned’s proportions. A girl like me can dream, right? In the meantime, if you’re curious about trying out the Gibson for yourself, give me a call. I’m always down.
SPECIAL THANKS TO ABSOLUT ELYX FOR HELPING US MAKE THIS NIGHT HAPPEN!
Vicini: 7777 Warren Parkway #104 (Frisco)
Boulevardier: 408 N Bishop Avenue #108 (Bishop Arts District)
The Mitchell: 1404 Main Street (Downtown)
Midnight Rambler: 1530 Main Street, inside The Joule Hotel (Downtown)
High & Tight: 2701 Main Street #180 (Deep Ellum)
The Theodore: 8687 North Central Expressway #1804, inside NorthPark Center (North Dallas)
Vol. 39: 39 S. La Salle Street, inside the Kimpton The Gray Hotel (Chicago, Illinois)