World War I
The Making of a Modern Myth
Herbert Hoover and Hugh Gibson preparing to leave for their 1947 food mission to Germany and Austria.
Herbert Hoover mentored and befriended many young men and women who latter achieved prominence in diverse fields of endeavor. One such relationship was with a young diplomat, Hugh Gibson, serving as secretary of the legation in Brussels, Belgium during the early years of World War I. Gibson was present during the meeting when the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Walter Hines Page, urged Hoover to take on the task of running the Commission for Relief in Belgium. Although a career diplomat, Gibson became a life-long admirer of Hoover supporting both the Iowan's political and humanitarian efforts. Another commonality shared by Hoover and Gibson was their enjoyment of a good martini.
Hugh Gibson is occasionally credited for creating the "Gibson" martini, but the true origins remain murky. Recipes for a Gibson martini exist as early as 1908 but the one characteristic element that makes the modern Gibson martini distinctive from other martinis is the use of a pearl onion. That does not appear in recipes until 1922. Neil MacNeil, Washington correspondent for Time magazine, provided a recollection of Gibson's own explanation about the famous martini:
'It was not long before the boys discovered that I was taking drink after drink with all of them and yet remained sober. At first they credited me with an extraordinary capacity to absorb alcohol. Later some of them thought that it might be the drink, and some of them began to order a 'Gibson.' Again the bartender came to my rescue. He served those who ordered a 'Gibson' a new kind of powerhouse, almost all gin and very little vermouth, and of course he put an onion in it to make it appear genuine."
It is not known whether Hoover preferred his martini with or without a garnish. We do know that he limited himself and his guest to two martinis and always with dinner. Late in Hoover's life when health problems began to plague him, his doctors urged him to quit drinking martinis. He refused. The doctors then suggested that Hoover cut his consumption from two glasses a day to one. This Hoover pledged he would do, but instructed his assistants to put his martini in a larger glass!