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The most recognizable and iconic cocktail has to be the martini! The shape of the glass, the bartender shaking it over their shoulder, with an olive garnish. We all know what a martini looks like, but what makes a martini dirty…read on to find out more!
History of the Dirty Martini
You may have tried a fruity martini once in your lifetime (I’m looking at you green apple martini mix). These drinks are heavily contested by true martini lovers, who claim these sweet-sugary cocktails are barely related to martinis at all! If this is where your experience with a martini starts and ends, there is still a whole martini world for you to explore.
A classic martini only has two ingredients: gin and dry vermouth, both mixed in equal volume. The flavour is meant to be a perfect balance between sweet (from the gin) and dry (from the dry vermouth). It is traditionally garnished with one or two olives on a cocktail pick.
So what makes a martini dirty? The addition of olive juice, or brine, to the liquors. It is said to have been originally created in 1901, in a hotel in New York. Bartender John O’Connor was inspired by the olives, and wanted to experiment by actually including them into the beverage, instead of only using them as garnish.
Initially, the drink was considered to be a flop because patrons were not excited to order it at the bars. The deviation from the original martini was not welcomed, and many cocktail enthusiasts did not pay attention to this new drink.
Over the next thirty years the beverage became more popular. In America the drink truly gained momentum when President F.D.R started to drink them in the White House on special occasions, in the 1930s. Apparently he would mix the drinks himself, and serve them to his guests.
Soon, the dirty martini was being regularly ordered and served at bars around the world. To this date, it remains one of the most popular cocktail recipes served globally.
Overview of the Ingredients
The classical ingredients of a dirty martini include gin, vermouth, olive juice, and olives to garnish. In the 1970s, vodka has risen in popularity, and had replaced gin entirely in the dirty martini recipe.
Vermouth is a fortified botanical wine. For a martini, it is recommended to use a dry vermouth instead the sweeter counterparts. The flavors of the vermouth are enhanced by various ingredients such as bark, herbs, roots and sometimes flowers.
So why the olive? I have wondered this myself, obviously it compliments the flavour profile of the drink, but how exactly did we land on an olive. Apparently, the brined fruit helps the aromatic properties of gin. The saltiness also helped to cut through the dryness of the vermouth. This made it an ideal and effective ingredient for this cocktail.
Unofficially, there is an unwritten protocol on how and when to eat the olives in your martini. If you order two olives on your cocktail pick, you are meant to eat one olive and then take your first sip. You leave the second olive in your drink as you sip the rest of the cocktail. Then, with your final swig of the drink, you eat the last olive. The olive will have soaked up some of the alcohols, and will offer unique flavour notes to end your drink.
How to Make the Perfect Dirty Martini
Start with a small amount of olive juice or brine. Remember, it is always easier to add more brine, but you can not remove it after mixing it in.
The ingredients in this cocktail are few, but the equipment is everything! You do not need a fancy shaker for this recipe, but it is necessary to use one. Add ice to your shaker, add the ingredients for the cocktail, and quickly shake it multiple times up and down, Make sure to hold on to the main vessel and the lid while shaking to avoid spilling.
A martini glass was specifically invented to serve martini cocktails, so consider investing in one. This glass has a long stem, with a conical shaped cup at the top which opens into a wide lipped vessel. This wide surface area is meant to help air circulate over the spirits, and increase the aromatic experience of the drink.
The sloping sides of the glass are intentionally designed to prevent the ingredients from separating. The pitch will keep the cocktail concentrated at the base of the glass. The shallow depth of the glass also supports small cocktail picks which will host the olives, and prevents them from falling to the bottom of the glass.
How to Mix Things Up With Garnish
Due to the limited number of ingredients, a dirty martini is a fairly easy “fancy” cocktail to make at home. Typically people will have a martini during happy hour, and will sip it slowly. It is not a beverage that is typically paired with a meal.
You may have heard of a dirty martini with a twist. This is a dirty martini that will have a lemon twist for garnish instead of olives. The acidity from the citrusy peel can help to cut through salty flavors, which some drinkers will enjoy to find their sweet spot.
A martini with a twist, is simply going to be a classic martini with a lemon twist substituted for olives entirely. This will be the ideal choice for people who do not like olives, and do not want them anywhere near their drinks.
For the olive lovers in the crowd, I am one of you! Add a kick to your dirty martini by using jalapeño stuffed olives. Like all cocktail garnishes, the option are endless!
- 3 oz vodka
- 1 dash dry vermouth
- 1 oz olive brine straight from the jar, can substitute olive juice
- 1 or 2 stuffed olives
- Add ice to your shaker. Pour in your vodka, dry vermouth, and olive brain. Shake for 30 seconds, and drain out the cocktail into a chilled martini glass
- Garnish with olive(s)
- Serve and enjoy!