The Dirty Martini

Dirty martini garnished with three green olives
The Spruce
  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving
  • Yield: 1 cocktail

The dirty martini has a pleasant saltiness that is fascinating against the gin and dry vermouth background. "Dirty" simply refers to the addition of olive juice or brine. It's a classic cocktail that is very easy to mix up and one of the most popular variations on the original gin martini.

You can make this drink as dirty as you like by pouring the olive juice to suit your taste. It may take a few rounds to find a perfect balance for you, but the experiments are fun. As you explore different brands of gin, you will want to make adjustments as well.

The key to making a great dirty martini is to use high-end gin (or vodka, if you prefer) and vermouth and to add just enough olive juice to lightly flavor it. It's very easy to make the cocktail too dirty, so take it easy at first.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 ounces​ gin (or vodka)
  • 1/2 ounce ​dry vermouth
  • 1/4 to 1/2 ounce olive juice (or olive brine; to taste)
  • Garnish: 1 or 3 olives

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a mixing glass filled with ice, pour the gin, dry vermouth, and olive juice.

    Pouring ingredients in a glass pitcher
    The Spruce
  3. Stir well for at least 30 seconds.

    Gin in a glass pitcher with a stirrer
    The Spruce
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Straining the drink
    The Spruce
  5. Garnish with 1 or 3 olives.

  6. Serve and enjoy.

Tips

  • It's said that an even number of olives is bad luck, though this could just be an old bar tale.
  • As with any of the basic martinis, adjust the gin-vermouth ratio to your liking. You can also shake the drink if you prefer.
  • Keep olives refrigerated. It's a common mistake in bars: Some bartenders make a dirty martini using warm juice from the garnish tray. It's a bad habit that's also unsanitary. Luckily, many have changed their ways and are either refrigerating separate brine for martinis or using bottled olive juice.

What's the Difference Between Olive Brine and Olive Juice?

In the cocktail world, olive juice and brine tend to mean the same thing, but there is a difference. Olives produce juice, which is pressed out of the fruit to make products like olive oil and the brine (salted water) for cured olives. 

Many people prefer to use the brine that is in a jar of olives for dirty martinis. And why not? If you have olives, you have salty juice right there. It is a very convenient and cheap addition to the drink. Plus, with all the gourmet olives available—stuffed with everything from the standard pimento to blue cheese or jalapeño—each brine brings a slightly different taste to the martini.

There are also many olive juices available that are designed specifically for the dirty martini. They can vary quite a bit in taste, though they're interesting to explore. It may take some time to discover which bottled olive juice you like best, so keep trying. Dirty Sue is a favorite for many dirty martini devotees. You might also try the cocktail-worthy olive juices from Boscoli, Fee Brothers, Filthy, Fragata, or Stirrings.

Recipe Variations

  • Some bartenders suggest using a few dashes of extra-virgin olive oil instead of brine. It adds just a hint of olive flavor beyond what the garnish can deliver. Just be sure it is only 1 or 2 dashes, or you will create an oil slick in your glass.
  • Filthy Martini: Replace the olive brine and garnish with caperberries (larger than capers) and the brine they're packaged in. Some recipes use up to 1 ounce of caper brine.
  • Dirty Gibson: Dirty martini meets Gibson cocktail; swap out the olive brine and garnish for cocktail onions and brine. The pickled onion provides a slight umami undertone.

Make Your Own Olive Brine

If your local market has an olive bar filled with gourmet olives, use them to make olive brine. It is effortless and allows you to customize the selection of olives, even adding a variety to a single jar.

The best part is that you are in control of the juice and can formulate it to suit your taste perfectly. This simple DIY project can save the die-hard dirty martini drinker a considerable amount of money. As a bonus, you also get a custom choice of olives for garnishing all of your martinis.

To make a basic brine, you will need 2 cups of green olives, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup dry vermouth, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and 2 tablespoons salt. Any of these can be adjusted to taste as you perfect your recipe.

  1. Place the olives in a glass jar with a tight-sealing lid. Recycled olive jars are a natural choice, and Mason jars work great as well.

  2. Gently press the olives with the back of a wooden spoon firmly enough to release their juice. Try not to smash them as if you're muddling fruit for a cocktail.

  3. In a bowl, combine the other ingredients and mix well.

  4. Pour the liquid over the olives until they are completely covered. Leave a little room for air at the top of the jar.

  5. Seal the jar and shake it vigorously.

  6. Refrigerate for at least one day (longer is better) and shake before using the juice.

If your juice gets a little low for the olives left in the jar, add more vermouth and give the mix a good shake.

How Strong Is the Dirty Martini?

Martinis are not weak drinks and that is why they're served between 3 to 4 ounces per serving. With an 80-proof gin and the average vermouth, this dirty martini recipe is a heavyweight. Its alcohol content is around 29 percent ABV (58 proof).