What is a Dirty Martini

What is a Dirty Martini

The dirty martini is a variation of the traditional gin and vermouth martini. It adds olive brine for a salty and savoury flavour. Its origins are unclear, but it’s believed to have been invented in the early 20th century. Today, it’s a staple at many bars and restaurants around the world, often served with olives or a lemon twist.

Origins of the Dirty Martini

The Dirty Martini is a classic cocktail believed to have originated in the US during the early 20th century. It is made with gin or vodka, dry vermouth, a small amount of olive brine, and garnished with olives. Its unique flavour and appearance make it a popular choice for Martini lovers.

Key Ingredients

Vodka or Gin

The first key ingredient in a Dirty Martini is either vodka or gin. Traditionally, gin was used in a classic martini, but vodka has become more popular in recent years. The choice between the two is a matter of personal preference and can greatly impact the overall flavour of the cocktail. Gin has a more herbal and floral taste, while vodka has a more neutral flavour.

Dry Vermouth

Dry vermouth is the second key ingredient in a Dirty Martini. It is a fortified wine that is flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices. Dry vermouth is used in a Dirty Martini to add a subtle sweetness and complexity to the cocktail. The amount of dry vermouth used can vary depending on personal preference, but it is typically a small amount.

Olive Brine

The final key ingredient in a Dirty Martini is olive brine. This is the liquid that is found in a jar of olives. The brine is used to give the cocktail its signature “dirty” flavour and appearance. The amount of olive brine used can also vary depending on personal preference, but it is typically a small amount.

Overall, the combination of these three key ingredients creates a unique and flavorful cocktail that is enjoyed by many. When making a Dirty Martini, it is important to use high-quality ingredients to ensure the best possible flavour.

Preparation Techniques

Stirring vs. Shaking

When preparing a Dirty Martini, there are two main techniques for mixing the ingredients: stirring and shaking. Stirring is the traditional method and involves gently mixing the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice using a bar spoon. This technique results in a smoother and less cloudy drink. On the other hand, shaking the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice creates a more frothy and cloudy drink, but also results in a colder temperature.

Some bartenders argue that shaking a Dirty Martini can “bruise” the gin and vermouth, altering the taste of the drink. However, others prefer the frothy texture and colder temperature that shaking provides. Ultimately, the choice between stirring and shaking comes down to personal preference.

Garnishing with Olives

One of the defining characteristics of a Dirty Martini is the olive garnish. Traditionally, one or two green olives stuffed with pimento are added to the drink. However, some bartenders have experimented with different types of olives, such as Kalamata or Castelvetrano.

To make the olive garnish “dirty,” bartenders add some olive brine to the cocktail. This gives the drink its signature salty and savoury flavour. Some bartenders also like to add a dash of bitters to enhance the flavour profile.

When garnishing a Dirty Martini, it is important to skewer the olives on a toothpick or cocktail pick and place them in the drink before serving. This not only adds a visual element to the drink but also allows the drinker to enjoy the olive flavour with each sip.

Variations of the Dirty Martini

Extra Dirty Martini

An Extra Dirty Martini is a variation of the classic Dirty Martini that has an extra splash of olive brine. This variation is perfect for those who love the salty and savoury taste of olives. The extra brine gives the drink a cloudier appearance and a stronger olive flavour. Some bartenders may also add a few extra olives as a garnish to enhance the flavour.

Filthy Martini

The Filthy Martini is a variation of the Extra Dirty Martini that has an even higher ratio of olive brine to gin or vodka. This variation is not for the faint of heart, as it is incredibly salty and savoury. The Filthy Martini is perfect for those who love a bold and intense flavour. Some bartenders may also add a splash of olive juice to the cocktail to give it an even richer flavour.

Dirty Martini with a Twist

The Dirty Martini with a Twist is a variation of the classic Dirty Martini that adds a twist of lemon to the mix. This variation is perfect for those who want a slightly tart and refreshing twist to their cocktail. The lemon adds a bright and citrusy flavour to the drink, which complements the salty and savoury taste of the olive brine. Some bartenders may also add a dash of orange bitters to the mix to give the cocktail an extra layer of complexity.


Serving Suggestions


A dirty martini is traditionally served in a martini glass, which is a stemmed glass with a wide, cone-shaped bowl. The wide bowl allows for the aromas of the drink to be captured and the stem ensures that the drink stays cool without being affected by the warmth of the drinker’s hand.

When serving a dirty martini, it is important to chill the glass beforehand. This can be done by placing the glass in the freezer for a few minutes or by filling it with ice and water and allowing it to sit for a few minutes before emptying and drying the glass.


A dirty martini should be served cold, but not too cold. If the drink is too cold, it can dull the flavours and aromas of the ingredients. On the other hand, if the drink is not cold enough, it can be unappetizing and unpleasant to drink.

To achieve the perfect temperature, it is recommended to shake or stir the ingredients with ice for about 15-20 seconds before straining them into the chilled glass. This will ensure that the drink is perfectly chilled without being watered down.

Overall, serving a dirty martini in a chilled martini glass and at the perfect temperature will enhance the drinking experience and allow the flavours and aromas to shine through.

Pairing with Food

A dirty martini is a versatile cocktail that can be paired with a variety of food items. The briny flavour of the olive juice and the smoothness of the gin makes it an excellent complement to salty and savoury dishes. Here are some food pairing suggestions to enhance your dirty martini experience:

  • Charcuterie and Cheese: The salty and fatty flavours of cured meats and cheeses pair well with the salty taste of a dirty martini. Try pairing it with a charcuterie board featuring prosciutto, salami, and aged cheeses like cheddar and gouda.
  • Seafood: The oceanic flavours of seafood are a natural match for the briny taste of a dirty martini. Oysters, shrimp cocktails, and smoked salmon are all great options to pair with this cocktail.
  • Steak: The bold flavours of a juicy steak are balanced out by the smoothness of a dirty martini. The cocktail’s savoury taste and the steak’s umami flavour create a perfect pairing.
  • Olives: If you’re looking for a snack to enjoy with your dirty martini, olives are an obvious choice. The briny taste of the cocktail is enhanced by the salty flavours of the olives.

Overall, a dirty martini is a great cocktail to pair with a variety of food items. Its briny flavour and smoothness make it a versatile option that can enhance the flavours of many different dishes.

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