Dirty Martini: Best Cocktail Recipe + 5 Delicious Variations
We know martinis should be shaken not stirred. But did the infamous Mr Bond ever discover the joys of the now-famous Dirty Martini? The delicious tang of the added olive brine means you’ll either love it or loathe it. Below are some variations that will have you grabbing that cocktail shaker in no time.
Dirty Martinis are essentially martinis with added olive brine, garnished with olives. They’re made of a mixture of dry gin and dry vermouth, shaken over ice. Adding olive brine gives this type of martini a slightly savory note.
It’s a delicious drink, particularly if you’re a fan of olives. Below, we explain how to make an original Dirty Martini as well as how to create other mouthwatering variations — including one that’s your very own.
What a Dirty Martini Is
A Dirty Martini is a martini-style cocktail with added olive brine and green olives. It’s a relatively simple drink, which can be perfected to your liking by experimenting with different types of gin and vermouth. You might also like to try different olives and brine to see what works best for your cocktail.
Brief History / Origin
The Dirty Martini was first shaken up in 1901 by a New York bartender. John O’Connor felt inspired by the olive garnish that’s normally present in an ordinary martini.
Initially, he crushed the olive into the drink, before eventually adding a splash of the brine. Dirty Martinis didn’t initially have many fans, though they’re popular now.
Ingredients: What’s in a Dirty Martini
Dirty Martinis are relatively simple to make and don’t require very many ingredients. The better quality your gin or vodka, the better the cocktail will be. For vermouth we recommend using something like Carpano Antica Formula or Noilly Prat Extra Dry.
- 4-6 pitted green olives
- 1 oz of olive birne
- 5 oz of dry gin
- 1 oz of dry vermouth
Calories in a Dirty Martini
Dirty Martinis aren’t particularly high in calories. Due to the relative dryness of this cocktail, they only add up to around 161 calories per glass.
Dirty Martini: Best with Gin or Vodka?
Gin connoisseurs will appreciate the botanical note gin tends to lend to cocktails. Vodka is a more clean-tasting spirit, perfect for making virtually any drink boozy without adding too much flavor of its own.
As a result, gin-based Dirty Martinis tend to taste more complex, with additional notes of botanicals. Vodka Dirty Martinis have a more distinct flavor of olive and olive brine. Both are good in their own way, so it’s down to personal taste which you prefer.
Best Gin & Vodka Brands for Dirty Martinis
Whether you like your Dirty Martini with gin or vodka or want to try one of each is up to you. Below are some of the best gins and vodkas to try. Bear in mind that gins in particular come with their own flavor profiles, while vodkas tend to be a little more similar.
Tanqueray London Dry
First crafted in 1830 by Charles Tanqueray, this gin is still made using the exact same combination of botanicals today as it was then. Tanqueray London Dry gin is distilled four times to make it extra smooth.
It features notes of juniper, coriander, angelica, and liquorice. It’s frequently favored over ice with tonic and a squeeze of lime, but it’s also an excellent addition to your favorite Dirty Martini cocktail.
Sipsmith London Dry
From the beautiful bottle to the smooth taste, Sipsmith’s London Dry gin is perfection. This particular gin tastes predominantly of juniper, followed by flavors of lemon tart and orange marmalade.
Essentially if Paddington ever had a martini, it would feature this gin. It’s perfect for a slightly zingier Dirty Martini, and is complemented well by lemon-brined olives.
The Botanist Islay Dry
This specialist gin is distilled by the Bruichladdich distillery on the Scottish island of Islay. It’s the first gin to have been produced there and features a whopping 22 wild, hand-foraged herbs and flowers as well as nine classic botanicals.
Some of these include gorse and heather flowers, orange peel, and even peppermint leaves. Mostly it tastes warm and citrusy though, making it perfect for a tangy Dirty Martini.
Crystal Head Vodka
Crystal Head Vodka is made in Canada using locally grown corn. It’s then distilled four times and filtered seven times to ensure it’s super smooth.
The idea behind it is to create a vodka that is as natural as possible, so the only ingredients are corn and fresh water from Newfoundland. Flavor notes include grain, vanilla-y sweetness, and a bit of citrus fruit. If you really want the olive brine to shine in your Dirty Martini, this is a great, mellow choice.
Hangar 1 Vodka
Hangar 1 vodka is crafted in Alameda, California by St. George Spirits. St. George Spirits was incidentally the first American eau de vie distillery, created back in the 1980s. What makes this vodka unique is that it’s made in small batches by pot-distilling a mix of Viognier grapes and American wheat.
This gives it that kind of fruity eau de vie vibe many enjoy. Hangar 1 is also renowned for some unusual flavored vodkas, including chipotle and spiced pear. The spicy chipotle vodka would be a particularly interesting addition to a Dirty Martini.
Unlike most vodkas, Cîroc is made in France using local grapes. The grapes are first made into wine before being distilled five times to create vodka. This makes Cîroc gluten free with distinct flavors of fruit.
If you enjoy traditional European spirits or fruit brandies, you’ll probably love Cîroc. This particular vodka will lend a more fruity note to your Dirty Martini. We’d suggest going for a more mellow-tasting olive alongside this, so as not to overpower the vodka.
Recipe – How to Make a Dirty Martini
Here’s how to make your own Dirty Martini:
- Chill the martini glasses in the fridge. Meanwhile, add the liquid ingredients and ice to a cocktail shaker and shake until well-chilled.
- Strain the cocktail into the cooled martini glasses and add the olives for garnish.
Enjoy alongside some delicious canapés.
How to Serve and Drink a Dirty Martini
A Dirty Martini should always be served in a chilled martini glass. Add a few green olives and that’s it. It’s an elegant yet relatively simple drink that shouldn’t be complicated by adding an excess of decorations. And it should never be served with a straw.
Time & Occasions for Drinking a Dirty Martini
According to martini aficionados, the best time to drink any martini is just before lunch. But if you asked 007, a martini can be enjoyed almost any time so long as it’s shaken and not stirred.
A good occasion for a Dirty Martini is an elegant cocktail party or special event such as an engagement party. It’s a unisex drink that looks elegant and sophisticated in the hands of both ladies and gentlemen.
Martinis are strong drinks with a high alcohol percentage, so you’ll want to pace yourself if you truly want to savor a Dirty Martini.
The most famous pairing for a Dirty Martini is a classic shrimp cocktail. Gin-based martinis go well with any kind of seafood due to the flavors of the botanicals. They’re also delicious with any kind of smoked salmon dish.
Savory dishes are generally a good idea. Olive-based canapés are a great choice, including olives with stronger cheeses. Deviled eggs are delicious with the strong flavors of a Dirty Martini. Prosciutto and melon are very nice with a vodka-based version.
Best Glass to Serve a Dirty Martini
There is only one glass you can serve a Dirty Martini in: a martini glass. The original cocktail glass with the stem and inverted cone was invented in the late 1900s.
The idea behind the glass was that most cocktails are served chilled. The stem was to allow drinkers to hold their beverage without heating it up. Meanwhile the large opening meant you could smell your cocktail well, allowing the aromatics often used to garnish it to unfold.
The iconic martini glass looks the same as a cocktail glass but is usually a bit larger. Essentially, a martini that isn’t served in a martini glass is not a martini at all.
Variations of the Dirty Martini
The original Dirty Martini with gin or vodka is arguably the best way to enjoy this cocktail. It’s iconic due to its simplicity and the savory addition of both olives and olive brine. With that said, it’s always fun to experiment a little. Below are some of our favorite Dirty Martini variations to recreate at home.
Dirty Martini without Vermouth
Not everyone likes the bitter, herbal taste of vermouth. Winston Churchill himself enjoyed his martinis with just gin. To create a Churchill-esque Dirty Martini, simply mix dry gin with olive brine and ice, shake, strain, and garnish with olives.
This is a particularly good recipe to try with a high quality gin such as the Botanist Islay one above.
Jalapeño Dirty Martini
Not quite a regular martini at all, but still delicious. If you like your cocktails spicy, this one’s for you. Mix jalapeño brine with dry vermouth and tequila blanco.
Shake over ice, strain into your favorite martini glass, and garnish with fresh jalapeño slices. If you want to stick closer to the original, this is also very good with the Hangar 1 chipotle vodka instead of the tequila.
Pickle Dirty Martini
A little unusual and not to everyone’s liking, this Dirty Martini adds pickle juice instead of olive brine. To recreate this drink, you’ll need to mix dry gin or vodka with vermouth, ice, and dill pickle brine.
Make as with the regular Dirty Martini above and garnish with a dill pickle. If you really want to get creative, try this drink with garlic pickles.
Essentially just a Dirty Martini with cocktail onion brine and cocktail onions instead of olives. This one is delicious, especially if you’re having it with a selection of cured meats and cheeses. It’s not the greatest for date night though, as the onion does leave a little bit of an undesirable after effect on your breath.
Your Own Version
Hands down the best way to enjoy a Dirty Martini is by experimenting with different types of gin or vodka, as well as olives. Some of the most common green olive varieties include manzanilla, cerignola, and picholine.
Manzanilla olives are the most common ones you’ll find in the supermarket. These Spanish olives are generally pitted and stuffed. Cerignola olives are large and meaty, though usually not pitted. Picholine olives are standard cocktail olives, and are grown in Morocco.
Experiment with different olives and olive brines and see which you like best. Alternatively, you can try brines of nearly all types of pickled vegetables, including any kind of hot pepper.
Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy
If you enjoy Dirty Martinis there are a few other cocktails you should try. There is a huge number of vodka and gin-based cocktails out there, but not many which are as classy as the Dirty Martini. If you’re looking for something similar, aim for a few ingredients and good quality gin or vodka.
If you love martinis but prefer them sweet, the Pink Martini is the drink for you. To make it, mix vodka, grapefruit juice, pomegranate and simple syrups, and a splash of lime juice. Serve chilled and garnish with a cocktail cherry. This one’s a particularly lovely drink to serve for Valentine’s Day.
The Vesper Martini was actually invented by author Ian Fleming as a special treat for James Bond based on his ill-fated love-interest Vesper Lynd.
Vesper Martinis are particularly boozy, mixing both gin and vodka with white vermouth. These are shaken over plenty of ice and garnished with a strip of lemon zest for a zingy touch.
Gimlets are made of lime cordial, gin and ice. They’re a lot sweeter than a martini, but equally delicious, particularly if you love gin. If you’re making a Gimlet, you’ll want to shake it over ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of lime and enjoy.