You have a fresh jar of cocktail onions sitting on your home bar, and you just aren’t sure what to do with them. Or, maybe you’ve passed by the jars of pearly onions at your local liquor store, and your curiosity has the best of you. Either way, we’re here to show you the best way to use those cocktail onions and offer our advice on the best cocktail onion out there –and how to make your own!
The Delicious Cocktail Onion
The cocktail onion is a bit of an outlier in the world of cocktail garnishes. We all know the olive is a treasured garnish, and most serious home bartenders have their favorite cocktail olive they use. But mention the onion, and suddenly the crowd divides into either love em or hate em. We’re firmly in the camp of love em, but you must know how to use them correctly.
The cocktail onion is a pearl onion pickled in brine, usually along with some herbs and spices to give it an extra kick of flavor. The onions are sweet to start with, and the brine mellows them either further.
- The Delicious Cocktail Onion
- Drinks with Cocktail Onions
- Best Premade Cocktail Onions
- Cocktail Onions Recipes
- Is That a Gibson In Your Cocktail Glass?
These onions don’t have that pungent, make-your-eyes-water fierceness that we associate with other types of onions.
Nobody knows for sure who invented pickled onions, but the pickled pearl onions started to see some popularity in the late 1800s when a businessman by the name of Walter DK Gibson created a drink that we still enjoy today, called the Gibson.
Now with that little bit of backstory out of the way, let’s talk about the cocktail onions and how to use them.
Drinks with Cocktail Onions
The Gibson Martini
The classic Gibson Martini is the “The” cocktail onion drink. The base of this drink is a classic martini made with gin. All you need for a good gin martini is dry vermouth and a really good quality gin.
Next, add the gin and vermouth to a cocktail shaker with ice. Then, choose your preference between shaken or stirred, and strain this beauty into a chilled martini glass.
So, where does it turn into a Gibson, rather than just a standard gin martini? It’s all in the garnish. Add one to three cocktail onions on a cocktail skewer and serve. If you like your Gibson a little dirty, add a dash or two of onion or olive brine.
Although the classic Gibson martini is made with gin, we like the idea of using vodka instead of gin for a twist on this classic cocktail recipe. Just swap out gin for Absolut vodka (or your personal favorite), and stir or shake it with dry vermouth over ice in a cocktail shaker, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Go easy on the vermouth if you prefer a dry martini.
For the garnish, simply add a skewer of pearly cocktail onions and enjoy.
by Foodie Crush
Sometimes we like our cocktails with a kick and some spice. This is where one of our favorite brunch-time drinks, the bloody mary, enters the picture.
There are about a million ways to make a bloody mary, and everyone seems to have their own secret cocktail recipe. We really like this bloody mary cocktail recipe from Foodie Crush because it features all of our favorite ingredients, like horseradish, Tabasco, celery salt, and all sorts of other good stuff. It’s truly amazing.
There are also about a million different ways you can garnish a bloody mary, but one of our favorites is to add a couple of cocktail onions to the mix. Pickles, olives, hot peppers, lime, celery, shrimp, and bacon are a few more ideas if you want to turn your bloody mary into a snack and not just a cocktail!
Best Premade Cocktail Onions
Filthy Onions Premium Cocktail Garnish
Filthy goes above and beyond with their premium cocktail onions. Each onion is handpicked, and they only use silver-skinned pearl onions. What’s also nice about Filthy onions is that they individually wrap each one, so you don’t have to worry about contaminated forks (or fingers!) fishing around in the jar. This does involve a little extra packaging, but the crispness, freshness, and sweetness are well worth it.
Filthy onions are completely vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free.
Collins Snow White Cocktail Onions
Best Sweet & Mild Cocktail Onions
We like the Collins Snow White Cocktail Onions because they have a slightly sweet, mild taste and the perfect amount of snap when you bite into them. The brine is deliciously salty and vinegary, making this a good onion for classic cocktails when you don’t want an overpowering taste.
Mezzetta Imported Cocktail Onions
Best Affordable Cocktail Onions
We like Mezzetta because they make good products that can be found at almost any grocery store, so you don’t have to go hunting down a good cocktail onion. While you can purchase Mezzetta at a lower price point than many craft cocktail onions, you’re really not losing anything on flavor or quality.
Crosse and Blackwell Cocktail Onions
Best For Non-Onion Lovers
Crosse and Blackwell make an all-around good cocktail onion. They use silver skin pearl onions with a nice bite and a mellow, sweet flavor. Like Mezzetta, these aren’t in the realm of “craft” cocktail onions, but they’re a great staple to have on your home bar.
Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Onions
Best Vermouth Soaked
Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Onions are soaked in vermouth and offer just the right amount of spicy sweetness to enhance your Gibson martini and other cocktails. The vermouth adds a wonderful touch, but these onions also include a decent amount of sugar, which helps to offset any oniony bitterness.
Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Jaapeno Onions
Best Flavored Onions
Do you like a bit of an extra spicy bit with your cocktail onions. These by Sable & Rosenfeld are soaked in vermouth and infused with spicy jalapeno flavor. They’re crisp to bite into and offer that wonderful balance between sweet and spicy. These onions are also a really great addition to a spicy bloody mary.
Cocktail Onions Recipes
Maybe you want to skip the packaged cocktail onions and make your own to liven up your cocktails. Pickling and brining it at home is pretty easy, and these recipes show just a glimpse at the many different variations you can take.
Quick Pickled Pearled Onions
by Food & Wine
We love these quick pickled onions by Food & Wine. They’re super easy to make and quick enough that you make up a fresh batch earlier in the day for an evening cocktail party (although we think they taste best when they’ve had a chance to sit a day or two!).
by Bon Appetit
Bon Appetit offers great cocktail recipes, including this one for a Gibson that includes a recipe for making your own cocktail onions. This recipe is fancier and elevated, but we love the flavors. With ingredients in the brine like coriander, juniper, bay leaf, garlic, and red pepper flakes, there’s no way to go wrong with this one.
If you like cocktail onions that are soaked in vermouth, this recipe by Martha Stewart is going to make your cocktail-loving heart happy. The onions are brined in dry vermouth, along with vinegar, sugar, and spices. These are the perfect pearly, boozy snack and cocktail garnish.
Is That a Gibson In Your Cocktail Glass?
The Gibson Martini is the most popular drink with cocktail onions, but you can use them in just about any drink you desire. We’re all about thinking outside the box and trying new flavor combinations here, and we can’t wait to hear about your favorite ways to use cocktail onions. Crunchy, sweet, and briny with a bit of spice make cocktail onions the perfect accompaniment to cocktail hour.