Elegant innovation: The Gibson cocktail bar in London

The Gibson cocktail bar London

Two leading bartenders are behind new London cocktail bar The Gibson

An oasis of elegance and Edwardian style, serving up world-class cocktails, has come to a drab stretch of Old Street in London. Nestled between Shoreditch and Clerkenwell, The Gibson is an intimate bar celebrating the classic gin, vermouth and onion cocktail of the same name, from innovative use of ingredients to experiments in pickling.

It is owned by Marian Beke who was bar manager of the nearby Nightjar for five years, helping to make it one of the world’s best bars. The Gibson’s bar manager is another award-winning bartender, Rusty Cerven, who was senior mixologist at The Connaught Bar in Mayfair – also in the top 10 of the World’s 50 Best Bars.

With their background, it is no surprise that every cocktail presents something unique and interesting. There are 49 on the menu, led by their signature Gibson made with Tanqueray Gin, Mancino Secco and an onion pickled in-house. The other 48 are set out over 12 pages like a calendar, each headed by the Anglo-Saxon name for a month – a nod to the bar’s roots in English heritage. Each page features a variation on a Gibson, served in a chilled stainless-steel martini glass, plus other original cocktails using different spirits, house-made ingredients and generous amounts of inventiveness. Asian flavours feature for March (or Hredamonad in Anglo-Saxon) such as the Grand Orient Express made with smoked dried lychee Glenfiddich 12 Year Old whisky, roasted barley tea and carob syrup, fresh galangal, lemon juice, custard apple and Korean bulgogi marinade.

The Gibson cocktail bar london

The menu features “Gibson Girls” – early 20th-century drawings of idealised American women by Charles Dana Gibson who, according to one story, inspired the cocktail’s creation in New York City in the 1930s. The illustrations have been given quirky detailing by designer Helen Calle-Lin who worked with Marian and the team on the visual concept for the bar.

However, other sources suggest the Gibson dates back to the early 20th century and this has influenced the Edwardian style of the interior, with mirror-topped tables, classic sofas, silver finishes and shelves lined with vintage shakers. A piano was due to be added in late February, part of the bar’s live music offering. For food, finely spiced tartares of steaks from nearby Smithfield Market are available alongside shaved parmesan and charcuterie and cheese boards with house-made chutneys and pickles.

Once a pub called the Chequers and more recently Italian bar Il Cicchetto, the 45-cover bar stands on a corner looking like a time traveller from a century ago. With pavement seating for the warmer months, it is open Monday to Saturday from 5pm until 1am weekdays and 2am at weekends. Despite its somewhat out-of-the-way location, The Gibson has quickly become a destination for anyone interested in the art of the cocktail.

The Gibson Martini

The Gibson, 44 Old Street, London EC1V 9AQ
Tel: 020 7608 2774

Originally published in the March 2016 print edition of Bar magazine.

Previous UK's Iain Griffiths reaches grand final of Bacardí Legacy
Next Revolution Bars Group continues expansion with plan for Reading