Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Vodka Cocktails

Cajun Martini

Cajun Martini cocktail with pickle garnish / 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. 

Patrons soon began to order the cocktail in quantities that were no joke, eventually consuming so many 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 1980s. 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 after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. But Wondrich has kept the recipe for the restaurant’s one and only cocktail. For this pre-batched Martini variation, good-quality vodka is infused with jalapeños for eight hours, then combined 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.

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 serve, a Cajun pickle garnish is traditional, but you can add any preferred pickled vegetable.


  • 1 (750 mL) bottle vodka

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

  • 3 to 4 ounces dry vermouth

  • Garnish: pickled vegetable


  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.

How Long Can You Store a Pre-Batched Cajun Martini?

Once you’ve infused the bottle of vodka with jalapeño, be sure to strain out all remnants of the pepper, including any wayward seeds. You’ll want to remove any fine organic particles to make it as “clean” as possible. When infusing a spirit with fresh ingredients, you’ll also have to make sure to keep the bottle refrigerated, or stored in the freezer, to make it last. Infused spirits and cocktails are best consumed within three months if kept cold.

Could You Make a Cajun Martini With Gin?

While a traditional Martini is typically made with gin, the Vodka Martini is still wildly popular. Gin is often swapped for vodka in a Dirty Martini, to allow the olive brine room to really shine. The same approach can apply to the Cajun Martini—using a more neutral base spirit will allow the pepper flavors to dominate. K-Paul’s originally offered the Cajun Martini with the option of vodka or gin. Apparently, vodka was the most popular choice, and they ran with that. The choice of base spirit in any Martini variation is always a matter of preference.