Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Vodka Cocktails

Cajun Martini

Cajun Martini cocktail with pickle garnish
Image:

Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

The Cajun Martini was never meant to be enjoyed. When the late New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme and his wife Kay opened their eponymous restaurant K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in 1979, they didn’t even plan to serve alcohol, better to ward off rowdy French Quarter revelers. But as cocktail historian David Wondrich has reported, the Chartres Street address came with a liquor license, and customers were asking for them to put it to use. So a year into the lease, Paul compromised, offering just one drink: a premixed Vodka Martini infused with jalapeño peppers. Kay allegedly invented the fiery Martini as a solution to the pair’s cocktail conundrum: The pre-batched drink was both easy to prepare and would scare off would-be drinkers—or so they thought. 

A relatively short steeping time made for a Martini that wasn’t so scary after all, and patrons soon ordered them in quantities that were no joke—so much so that the Prudhommes had to enforce a strict two-drink limit. New Orleans wasn’t the only city hot on the drink in the ’80s: In fact, Wondrich himself first encountered a “head-arrangingly hot” Cajun Martini at New York City’s now-closed Great Jones Café in 1983, and in 1987, the bar manager at Philadelphia restaurant Carolinas told The New York Times that one in 10 cocktails he served each night was the Crescent City staple. The drink became so popular that K-Paul’s even worked with the Sazerac company to bring a commercially bottled version to market in 1986.

Neither Paul nor Kay is still alive, and K-Paul’s closed in 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions. But Wondrich has shared the recipe for the restaurant’s one and only cocktail below. For this pre-batched Martini variation from K-Paul, he infuses good-quality vodka with jalapeños for eight hours, then combines it with dry vermouth before chilling and serving. As with many pre-batched cocktails, the drink is perfect for making ahead of a party or other event so you can spend time with guests rather than mixing cocktails on the spot.

The recipe calls for just one pepper to prevent a throat-scorching drink; pay attention to the steeping time to ensure the vodka doesn’t get hot enough to scare away your guests—unless, of course, that’s your goal. When you’re ready to stir up a few drinks, a Cajun pickle garnish is traditional, but you can add any pickled vegetable of your choosing. Despite the Prudhommes’ best-laid plans, you’re likely to enjoy more than just one or two.

Ingredients

  • 1 (750 mL) bottle vodka

  • 1 jalapeño pepper, slit open top-to-bottom, seeds remaining

  • 3 to 4 ounces dry vermouth

  • Garnish: pickled vegetable

Steps

  1. Pour out enough vodka (3 to 4 ounces) from the bottle of vodka so that the jalapeño can fit in the bottle without making it overflow. Reserve excess vodka for another use.

  2. Place the jalapeño in the bottle, seal the bottle, and refrigerate for 8 hours. (You may wish to tie some thread or twine to the stem of the jalapeño before adding it to the bottle to make it easier to remove.)

  3. Remove the jalapeño from the bottle and refill to the top with dry vermouth.

  4. Seal and shake lightly to combine. Store in the freezer.

  5. To serve, pour 2 to 3 ounces of the mixture into a mixing glass, add ice, and stir to further chill and dilute.

  6. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

  7. Garnish with your favorite pickled vegetable.