Cloudy and slightly salty, The Dirty Martini originated in New York City and dates back to the year 1901. Bartender John O’Conner created the original Dirty Martini by adding a splash of olive brine to the classic Gin Martini and the rest is history.
Martinis made with Vodka vs. Gin
I like Martinis made with either gin or vodka. Luckily, the Dirty Martini recipe works well with either gin or vodka. But never shake a gin Martini, shaking gin aerates the spirit and creates a bit of an ‘off’ flavor. That being said, when making a Dirty Martini, shake vodka, stir gin.
Dirty Martini Ingredients
- Vodka or Gin: Dirty Martinis can be made with either vodka or gin, try the recipe with both and choose your favorite. For a vodka Martini, I like Tito’s Handmade Vodka, it’s exceptional. Tito is from Texas and we met him once and toured the distillery in Austin, so I like to support our hometown boy. For gin Martinis, my current favorites are either The Botanist or Hendricks, both of the gins are outstanding.
- Olive Brine: This liquid in the olive jar is what gives the dirty to a Dirty Martini. The slightly salty, olive flavor is a great mixer with both vodka and gin.
- Dry Vermouth: The vermouth adds a subtle flavor to this Martini. Vary the amount to fit your tastes. For a Dirty Martini, you can add anywhere for zero to ½-ounce of dry vermouth.
I’ve tried a variety of methods, to make a Dirty Martini, some dirtier than others.
- Vermouth with muddled olives is delicious and fun to make. However, the process takes time and planning to let the olives marinate in the vermouth. And I’m just not that convinced that the difference in a Dirty Martini made this way is worth the effort.
- I’ve tried a Dirty Gibson as well, using the brine from pickled onions rather than olives, it’s actually pretty tasty.
- And of course, just varying the amount of olive brine in the Dirty Martini to suit your personal tastes.
Never Shake a Gin Martini
Gin has an interesting similarity with red wine and aeration. I’ll use this as an example of why never to shake a gin martini, even a Dirty Martini. We are all familiar with the practice of letting red wine ‘breathe’. Decanting red wine, swirling the wine in the glass, and exposing it to oxygen for a short time will soften the flavors. This allows some of the more volatile aromas to escape and release the more pleasant fruit and oak aromas in the wine. However, if allowed to breathe for too long the finer subtle qualities of the wine will not only disappear but eventually, the wine turns to vinegar.
Gin is very similar to red wine in this matter. Shaking gin accelerates the breathing process exponentially.
Gin has a complex mixture of aromas divided into three parts; top notes, middle notes, and base notes. With gin, the most desirable qualities are in the top note. All of the botanicals: juniper, pine, fruit, spice, and floral are top notes. Unfortunately, when gin has been agitated by shaking, the top notes are the first to go. Leaving only the less desirable middle and base notes. Bruising the gin won’t turn it to vinegar, but it will leave the gin Martini dull and lifeless. All of the amazing botanicals that are so desirable lost to the inside of a cocktail shaker.
This is how to make a Dirty Martini
- 2 1/2 Ounces Gin or Vodka
- 3/4 Ounce Olive Brine or pickled onion brine for a Dirty Gibson
- 1/2 Ounce Dry Vermouth
- Olives or Pickled onions for a Dirty Gibson
- Chill the glass
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice
- Stir the gin or shake the vodka until ice cold
- Serve in an ice-cold glass garnished with olives