Cocktail Onions At Home: Use This Step-By-Step Guide
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Small, white onions that are similar to the pink shallots we have in India, are utilised best when pickled in vinegar or brine. Often used as a garnish or ingredient in cocktails – particularly in classic drinks like the Gibson or a martini, their tangy flavour complements the sharp taste of the liquor, adding subtle acidity and crunch. Cocktail onions – an underrated garnish in mixology, are typically sold in jars that you can find in a supermarket shelf, and used to enhance depth and complexity of a drink.

Image Credits: Betty Crocker

For example, in a dirty martini, a cocktail onion or two is used in addition to or instead of olive brine to add taste and texture, also adding visual appeal when skewered on a cocktail pick and placed in the drink. Unlike the pungency from raw onions, these pickled bulbs have a distinctive taste that is tangy, slightly sweet and mildly acidic. The pickling process mellows out the sharpness of the raw onion, resulting in a more delicate onion scent. With a firm texture and crisp crunch when bitten into, their small size allows them to be easily consumed as a whole in a single bite.

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While it is easy to pick up a jar from the grocery store when a cocktail recipe calls for them, making your own batch at home is a straightforward process.


  • 1 cup small white onions, peeled
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • Handful of whole spices – peppercorns, mustard seeds and a bay leaf


  • Start off by blanching the onions in boiling water for a quick minute and transferring them to a bowl of ice water to prevent them from softening. Ensure that when you peel the onions that you keep the roots intact.
  • In a separate saucepan, combine the vinegar and water, followed by the addition of sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and turn off the flame once the seasonings dissolve completely.
  • Add in the whole spices and allow the brine to cool completely.
  • Sterilise a glass jar and add the blanched onions to them before gently pouring and filling up the jar with brine to the brim, thus submerging the onions.
  • Make sure the jar is sealed with an air-tight lid and allowed to sit for at least 24 hours before it is used in a cocktail.  The longer they sit, the more they’ll absorb the flavours of the brine.
  • Use your homemade cocktail onions as a garnish in your favourite Martini cocktail, if stored correctly in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.