You’ve met the classic Martini, now meet its cousin, the Dirty Martini. Like the classic Martini, this is not for the faint of heart, but for an entirely different reason. Most people order this without knowing what to expect, and they get overwhelmed.
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What is a Dirty Martini?
A Dirty Martini is exactly what it sounds like – a dank, grungy Martini that absolutely tastes as it looks. This cocktail is almost as old as the original Martini, and if you’re wondering what makes it ‘dirty’, it’s the olive. Extra olive, in the form of green olive brine. The exact amount of brine varies from bar to bar, but most tend to do a 50/50 of vermouth and brine.
So what’s wrong with the Dirty Martini ? Why are some people instantly offended by this ? Well, the olive is a classic garnish for a typical Martini, but to go as far as adding actual olive brine into the drink is blasphemy to some. To others it’s absolutely delicious, and this is something people have Very Strong Opinions about.
Make no mistake though, this is actual olive brine, so there is quite a bit of salt in there. You can easily scale this to have more or less brine, but try this version first to get a baseline. It’s the one you’ll usually find when ordering a Dirty Martini.
Dirty Martini Cocktail Recipe
- 2 oz gin
- 0.5 oz dry or blanc vermouth
- 0.5 oz olive brine
- olives and lemon to garnish
- In a shaker or mixing glass add ice, gin, vermouth, brine.
- Stir to combine and chill.
- Strain into Martini glass, garnish with olives and lemon.
- The brine is noticeable, and transforms the whole drink. Scale it down if you want to feel the gin more.
When is this drink best ?
I think a Dirty Martini works just as well as a regular Martini, and I think it’s actually the grungy, scruffy, sexy cousin of the elegant and upstanding classic Martini. You can drink this in any setting you’d usually get a regular Martini, but in my opinion you can sip on this for longer precisely because of the brine. Think of it like adding salt to your beer.
My thoughts on Dirty Martini
This particular version of the Dirty Martini was a bit too salty for me. I preferred a 25/75 brine to vermouth the few times I made it, but the overall vibe is the same. The brine works well to tame even the strongest of gins. It dulls some of the juniper you feel, but to me that isn’t an issue. Still a very strong drink. The little bit of added color also helps; it has the slightest golden-green hue.
In my opinion the Dirty Martini is a very fussy drink, and the preferred salt level varies wildly from person to person; it’s impossible to please a crowd with the same recipe. This isn’t a drink I usually order, and definitely not something I want to spend the night sipping on. Buuuut if I’d have to choose between classic and Dirty for the rest of my life, the Dirty is my choice.
If you like Dirty Martini, you might also like…
Classic Martini – the classic 2 to 1 gin to vermouth version of a Martini, sans brine
Cucumber Martini – a gin and vermouth Martini with fresh cucumber
Notes, substitutes, and tips
Feel free to scale down the brine in this. Most bars use this 50/50 vermouth to brine split, but you can also try adding the regular amount of vermouth and just a tiny splash of live brine. Don’t underestimate the salt, it’s definitely noticeable and can get overwhelming.
I think blanc vermouth works better here than dry vermouth. That slight sweetness plays very well with the brine, even if this doesn’t result in a sweet drink.
Originally the Dirty Martini used gin, and many bars today still use gin. But by the 70s vodka became the base alcohol in these drinks. No one is sure how or why that happened, but the result is that today you have a 50/50 chance of getting vodka in your Dirty Martini, unless you ask the bartender for gin. I think the vodka might blend in a bit better here.
If you want to mix things up, consider swapping the green olive brine for pickles, capers, or even jalapenos if you like your Martini Dirty and Hot.