This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

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

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 want to make it even better? Try the Dirty Martini! Add a splash of olive juice and the way it rounds out the flavor is perfection: 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 just right. Here’s how to make a Dirty Martini!

What’s in a Dirty Martini?

The dry martini is one of the most famous cocktails of all time. It likely stems from another cocktail from 1860’s called the Martinez made with gin, sweet vermouth and Maraschino liqueur. 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 olive jar)
  • Olive, for 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 savory garnishes became a trend, so bartenders started to use them for the martini. 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 test 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, 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 ½ ounce olive brine and vermouth to 4 ounces gin.

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 a mixing glass, use your cocktail shaker or a large metal glass or cup. 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 our Dirty Martini, we like to use Malfy gin. Either way, each gin brand tastes a little different: experiment to find your favorite.

What’s dry vermouth?

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 quite different: it’s used classic in drinks like the Manhattan, Negroni, and Americano.

How to make a dirty martini

Martini variations

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

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Dirty Martini

Dirty Martini


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

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) gin
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) dry white vermouth
  • ½ 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
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Dirty Martini

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Comments

  1. Just made one and it turned out perfect. Your site is my No.1 ‘go to’ for recipes as the are spot on and delicious!

  2. I once had dinner with my late mother and ordered an Absolut Martini. She was shocked. “Martinis are made with gin. Period.” Your recipe is perfect. The ghost of my mom says cheers.