Cloudy and slightly salty, The Dirty Martini originated in New York City and dates back to the year 1901. The bartender John O’Conner added a splash of olive brine to the classic Gin Martini and the rest is history.
Martinis made with Vodka vs. Gin
I always prefer Martinis made with gin rather than vodka, that’s just me though. The subtle herbaceous qualities of gin win me over every time.
This recipe works well with either gin or vodka. But never shake a gin cocktail, shaking gin aerates the spirit and creates a bit of an ‘off’ flavor. That being said, shake vodka, stir gin.
I’ve tried a variety of methods, to make a Dirty Martini, some dirtier than others.
- Vermouth with muddled olives is delicious and fun. But it takes time and planning to let the olives marinate in the vermouth. And I’m just not that convinced that the difference 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 cocktail.
Never Shake Gin Cocktails
Gin has an interesting similarity with red wine and aeration and I’ll use this as an example of why never to shake gin. We are all familiar with the practice of letting red wine ‘breathe’, decanting, and swirling the wine in the glass prior to drinking. Decanting red wine and exposing it to oxygen for a short time will soften the flavors, allow 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 an extended amount of time, 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, and the process of 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 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 dull and lifeless, with all of the amazing botanicals that are so desirable lost to the inside of a cocktail shaker
This is my favorite way 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