Pickled ramps are the star of this cocktail (there’s no wonder we refer to it as a forager’s martini!). Here’s how to put a locally- and seasonally-inspired twist on the classic Gibson.

This cocktail is part of “Last Call,” Traverse, Northern Michigan Magazine’s drinks department that features a seasonal cocktail recipe each month as well as monthly wine and beer recommendations. Don’t miss a single sip! Subscribe here!

East of the Mississippi, ramps are the quintessential harbinger of spring. When this member of the onion family emerges from the forest floor, foragers know that Northern Michigan’s growing season is just around the corner.

Due to the recent popularity of ramps, some suggest that we only harvest one or two leaves from each plant so that this wild edible can continue growing until it seeds itself. Needless to say, if we are clearing a trail in the woods or otherwise end up with a sustainable shovelful of the entire plant, we use them wisely—pickling them so that they last well beyond their fleeting peak. Pickled ramps are great on salads and burgers, but we especially love them in our martinis.

Photo of a Gibson with picked ramp.

Since the early 1900s, a martini garnished with a cocktail onion instead of olive has been known as a Gibson. While experts debate the origins of this classic (illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, steamship tycoon Walter D.K. Gibson and boxing promoter Billy Gibson have all been linked to the original), no one can debate that using a house pickled ramp instead of a grocery store cocktail onion feels like a serious upgrade. While many Gibson recipes call for gin, a clean high-quality vodka really lets the briny, garlicky flavors of a pickled ramp shine.

How to Make a Ramp Gibson
Serves 1

  • 2 1⁄2 ounces quality vodka, such as Valentine Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth 1-2 bar spoons of pickling juice from the jar of ramps
  • 1 pickled ramp for garnish


Add ice to a martini glass to chill it. Fill a mixing glass or mason jar with ice and add the vodka, dry vermouth and 1 or 2 bar spoons of pickling juice. Stir the mixture 50 times to melt water from the ice cubes, a key ingredient in a proper martini. Discard the ice in the martini glass, strain contents of the mixing container into the glass and garnish with a pickled ramp and a peppercorn from the brine.

NOTE: To pickle ramps, pack tall, 12-ounce jelly jars with thoroughly cleaned ramps, bulb end down. Add a bay leaf and a few pinches of mustard seed, black peppercorns and fennel seeds to each jar. Bring 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon salt to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour the hot liquid into the jars, trim any excess leaves and seal.

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as Restaurant Critic. Follow her on Instagram at @staceybrugeman.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner