Gibson and the bat-shit crazy Bohos

Dear Muddlers

Today seems a perfect day to celebrate people being over-compensated for their achievements. And I’ve found the perfect cocktail for it.

The Gibson.

Now the Gibson is a perfectly tasty cocktail. It’s essentially a Martini and we all know how I love a Martini.

But the thing that transforms the Martini into a Gibson is replacing the olives with cocktail onions.

Shazam! A new cocktail.

It’s undeniably delicious, and given the onion is a vegetable and the olive a fruit, it may make more sense in a serious cocktail, but really?

Determined to do things properly, I looked hard (ok, two grocery stores) for pickling onions small enough to be appropriate for a cocktail glass, but they were all golf-ball size.

So I abandoned my Martha Stewart pretensions and sourced all the different types of ready-made cocktail onions I could find (three brands) and the type of onion does indeed make a difference in flavour, but it was still essentially three Martinis.


Yes, a great day at the home office.

But it left me no closer to understanding why replacing the olives with a lemon twist doesn’t transform the cocktail, but apparently an onion does.

In the most credible theory of its creation, in the late 1800s, a San Francisco businessman named Walter D.K. Gibson wanted his Martini a little special.

Being a fan of what he considered the common cold-preventing qualities of onions (but being a bit smarter than this oni1439370916609on-eating imbecile) Walt asked the bartender at the Bohemian Club to switch it up.

And 140 odd years later, we’re still calling the cocktail after old Gibbo?

Taj Gibson, is no doubt an excellent basketball player, but I don’t think he’s curing cancer. Yet, in another Gibson-themed example of achievements being over-rewarded, he’s just signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves that won’t be commemorated a century from now by cocktail drinkers, but will get him $28 million.

Isn’t that nice?

The Bohemian Club in San Francisco where the Gibson cocktail was “invented” is full of people getting overpaid for their work. Not so much the staff, class actions a few years back indicate that staff remuneration may be little more than a jar of pickled onions a week, but the members.

It doesn’t seem so different from any gentlemen’s club around the world. Wealthy men, mostly white, sipping port and smoking cigars away from the prying eyes of women or anyone not as wealthy as them.

Seems a shame that Bette Davis’s Gibson-swilling dame Margo Channing from All About Eve wouldn’t be allowed to attend.  Every party ever hosted would benefit from the presence of a woman who downs a Gibson and instructs her guests to “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Fasten your seatbelts

All About Eve is the story of a beautiful young woman who uses charm and flattery to hoodwink the Broadway power-players and build her stardom at the expense of others who have been kind to her along the way.

It is exactly the sort of reason that men like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and a bunch of Bushes and Clint Eastwood and Charlton Heston and Mark Twain and Jack London and a host of other mostly white, mostly Christian, always wealthy, blokes need to go to be able to let their comb-overs down without the spectre of being hoodwinked by someone like that conniving Eve.

I would object to the principal of not being allowed to join except I can’t think of a reason I would want to join.

Hang on, that’s not quite true.

Every July, members of the Bohemian Club go to summer camp in northern California. It’s called Bohemian Grove and is held on a beautiful private property full of magnificent old growth Redwoods that the club is cutting down to supplement its income.

The Club’s motto is “Weaving Spiders come not Here” which is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and effectively means that members and their guests are not allowed to be networking and doing business while they’re there.

No. They’re not.


This motto obviously means that the rumours that the Manhattan Project was devised there, couldn’t possibly be true.

Just as well, because imagine a world where if Hillary Clinton had been President, she wouldn’t have been allowed to go to a place where swinging dicks make important decisions about nuclear weapons.

Or where, if Australia had a female Prime Minister, she wouldn’t be allowed to go, but her Foreign Minister Bob Carr – let’s be clear, JUNIOR to her in every way, would be allowed to accept an invitation from Henry Kissinger AND use tax-payer money for the privilege in 2012.

Lucky nothing important is discussed there, right?

Just a bunch of knockabout guys letting it all hang out (interestingly, being able to piss on the Redwoods at will is one of the reasons the Club cited in applying to exclude women from working there).*

Anyway, they start the two week-long event with the Cremation of Care, a ceremony where the effigy of a child named “Dull Care” is mock sacrificed by men in red robes with pointed hoods and then put out in a burning boat on the lake.

Now when I finished senior Maths in high school, I did participate in a secret burning of class notes and text books with some equally numerically-challenged classmates, so I’m not entirely averse to the secret ceremony, but the robes do make it sound a little like a cheerier and wealthier Klan meeting.

Anyway, those Bohemians are a notoriously loyal bunch and I imagine that they happily turn a blind eye to the mediocrity of Walter D.K. Gibson’s stunning cocktail “achievement”, but I’m calling bullshit on the Gibson.

It may have cocktail onions, but it’s definitely a Martini.

And a weaving spider can’t change its spots.




*Huge and obvious downside of the ban on women ever working at camp is that the hardened hearts and arteries of the members couldn’t be softened by the melodic stylings of another Gibson – Debbie – and her Electric Youth promise of the 1980s. Certainly that’s what I recommend listening to as you sip your cold-prevention fluids.



1 thought on “Gibson and the bat-shit crazy Bohos

  1. Great piece on a pet hate- clubs…of any kind whose sole purpose is self indulgence. as Groucho Marx said “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club who wanted me as a member”

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