Dirty Martini

Here’s how to make the best Dirty Martini: gin, vermouth and a splash of olive juice! The way the tangy brine rounds out the flavor is true perfection.

Dirty Martini

The martini is one of the most iconic cocktails of all time. The classic martini is just two ingredients: crisp, cool, and spirit-forward. But how to make it even more perfect? The Dirty Martini! Add a splash of olive juice to your martini, and the way it rounds out the flavor is true perfection. It’s tangy, salty, briny and complex. The martini is seeped in tradition, and as you might expect: we have our own opinion on how to make it perfectly. Here’s how to make a classic Dirty Martini…the best way.

What’s in a Dirty Martini?

The dry martini is one of the most famous cocktails of all time. It possibly stems from another cocktail from 1860’s called the Martinez (named after Martinez, California). The first printed recipe for a martini was in 1888, but it looked more like the Martinez than what it is today. By the 1920’s, the drink reached its current form and it remains iconic to this day! The dry martini is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an official definition. The Dirty Martini simply adds a splash of olive brine. The ingredients in a Dirty Martini are:

  • Gin
  • Dry vermouth
  • Olive brine (liquid from the jar)
  • Olive as a garnish
How to make a Dirty Martini

Why add olives to a cocktail?

How did adding olives to a dry cocktail happen in the first place? According to Sipsmith, the first martinis were actually sweetened with syrups and garnished with cherries. In the 1880’s there was a trend in savory garnishes, so bartenders started to use them. But why add olives? The salt and brine compliment the aromatics in the gin and the tang in the vermouth, taking the drink to new heights.

It wasn’t until the 1930’s where this trend caught on. Allegedly, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt hosted Winston Churchill and introduced him to the Dirty Martini, adding both olives and some of the brine to the drink. There are several variations to the story, but all that to say: this classic cocktail has a place in history!

The best Dirty Martini? With gin.

There’s an ages old argument over whether a martini should be made with gin or vodka. Here’s our two cents on how we think the perfect Dirty Martini should be made:

  • A martini should be made with gin. Period. In our taste taste of a gin martini vs vodka martini, gin won hands down. Why? The flavor is intriguing and botanical, perfectly balanced with the subtle tang of the dry vermouth. You can’t save a vodka martini with olive brine, either.
  • Don’t waste your time on a vodka martini! Because vodka is almost flavorless, a vodka martini tastes a bit like bitter water with a spicy, boozy aftertaste. Advocate for it all you like (let us know in the comments!). But to us, you might as well just drink straight vodka.
Dirty martini

Ratio for a Dirty Martini: reduce the gin

You’d think that a Dirty Martini would simply add olive brine to the classic martini. That’s close, but not quite it! Here’s what to know about the ratio:

  • Reduce the gin. Our classic martini has a 6 to 1 ratio on gin to vermouth. For a Dirty, go down to a 4 to 1 ratio.
  • Add equal olive brine to vermouth. Then add the same amount of olive brine as vermouth (here it’s 1 tablespoon or 1/2 ounce).

Stirred, not shaken!

Should a martini be stirred or shaken? A Dirty Martini should be stirred. Bartenders know this rule: if a drink contains only alcohol, it should be stirred with ice. Why? Shaking in a cocktail shaker dilutes the drink with melting ice. This technique is used mainly for sour cocktails.

To stir your Dirty Martini, use a cocktail mixing glass and a long bar spoon. If you don’t have one, you can use your cocktail shaker, a large metal glass or cup, and any long spoon. But if you want to look like you know your cocktails, use a mixing glass! Here’s a cocktail mixing glass we recommend.

Cocktail shaker
Use a cocktail mixing glass to make a martini.

What gin for a Dirty Martini?

Just as with a classic martini, use the best gin you can find for a gin martini. The olive brine can cover up for a bad gin, but only so far! You’ll want to find a bottle that’s mid-price range and above: none of the cheap stuff! Some people swear by Beefeater London Dry gin. For ours, we used Malfy gin. Either way, each gin brand tastes a little different: experiment to find your favorite.

What’s dry vermouth?

Do you have vermouth in your liquor stash? Vermouth is a fortified wine, meaning liquor has been added to the wine to preserve it. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet vermouth (usually red) and dry vermouth (usually white). The Dirty Martini calls for dry vermouth. The flavor of dry white vermouth is crisp and clear: like a very dry white wine. Make sure to store it refrigerated: it lasts about 3 months.

Sweet red vermouth is something completely different! It’s used in drinks like the Manhattan, Negroni, and Americano.

How to make a dirty martini

Martini variations

And that’s it: how to make a perfect Dirty Martini! Once you’ve tried it, here are a few more types of martinis:

  • Vesper Martini The classy Vesper martini is cool, crisp and herbal, featuring gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc. Invented by James Bond, it’s become a true classic.
  • Gibson Cocktail The same as a martini…except for the garnish!
  • French Martini Perfectly balanced with vodka, pineapple juice, and raspberry liqueur.
  • Mexican Martini Full of zingy flavor, with lime, tequila and an olive garnish.
  • Cucumber Martini This cool spin on the classic is botanical and fresh, featuring the refreshing scent of this hydrating vegetable.
  • Pomegranate Martini or Watermelon Martini These jewel-toned drinks are tangy and light: the ideal fruity variation.
  • Lemon Drop Martini This ultra tangy martini is made with vodka, Cointreau and lemon! It’s festive and refreshing, with a lemon twist and sugar rim.
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Dirty Martini

Perfect Dirty Martini


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Here’s how to make the best Dirty Martini: gin, vermouth and a splash of olive juice! The way the tangy brine rounds out the flavor is true perfection.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) gin
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) dry white vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) olive juice (brine)
  • For the garnish: olive

Instructions

  1. Combine the gin, vermouth, and olive juice in a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds until very cold.
  2. Strain the drink into a cocktail or martini glass (purists chill the glass first). Garnish with an olive.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Dirty Martini

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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