The Martini is as classic as cocktails get. Everybody knows it, most people have had one, and any good bar worth its salt can make one. But not all Martinis are the same.
The classic Dry Martini is the standard bearer among recipes and variations, but countless riffs take the drink in new directions, from the 50/50 Martini, which combines equals parts gin and dry vermouth, to the Perfect Martini, which splits the vermouth between sweet and dry. There are also countless ’tinis, often sugary, neon-colored drinks served in stemmed glasses that are another category of drink. (For this exercise, those don’t count.) And then you have the savory, beguiling and controversial Dirty Martini.
The Dirty Martini is believed to have originated in 1901, when New York bartender John O’Connor found inspiration in the classic’s famous olive garnish. First made by muddling the olive into the drink, and later by adding a splash of olive brine, the Dirty Martini took decades to reach a wide fan base. It eventually found favor among drinkers, including President F.D.R., who served and drank them in the White House. Fast forward to modern day, and the cocktail is equally loved and reviled—ordered en masse by thirsty patrons while simultaneously loathed by some bartenders.
But some enterprising bartenders have seen the writing on the wall—people are bewitched by Dirty Martinis—and begun making the drink their own, improving the cocktail with proper techniques and quality ingredients. That includes fresh, refrigerated dry vermouth and artisan olive juice.
The cocktail can be made with gin or vodka. Gin is the classic choice, but by the 1970s, vodka had supplanted its botanical cousin, and it became the regular call in Dirty Martinis. You can choose whichever spirit you prefer, as both do an admirable job.
The Dirty Martini may never touch the classic Dry Martini’s influence or reputation, but you can’t dispute its popularity and significance. What was once a dirty secret is today a go-to order for salt-craving drinkers. And because the Dirty Martini is easy to make, it’s also a great option when drinking at home. Throw in its garnish that doubles as a snack, and there’s just so much to like about this tried-and-true cocktail.
Click Play to See This Dirty Martini Recipe Come Together
2 1/2 ounces gin or vodka
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce olive brine
Garnish: 2 to 4 olives
Add the gin or vodka, vermouth and olive brine to a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a skewer of olives.