The Dirty Martini is the Martini Variant that takes the classic olive garnish of the Dry Martini and goes all in with it. For those who enjoy the olive taste of their Martini, it is a winner. And my own Very Dirty Martini even better. However, for those, like myself, who really don’t like the taste of olives it’s revolting. As usual, personal taste matters for a lot more than expert opinion.
The Dirty Martini is the drink of choice for serious olive lovers. For what makes it dirty is increasing the proportion of the olive flavour. The standard and classic way to do this is by adding a little olive brine (the “juice” olives are stored in) to your Martini. However, I would argue that my method which results in a Very Dirty Martini makes a far superior drink. True, it’s not the classic way to make the drink. But it results in a far more intense olive taste to your drink. Anyone who likes Dirty Martinis should love them. Anyone who doesn’t even like regular Dirty Martinis should steer clear.
As far as I can tell, no-one seems to know for sure who invented the Dirty Martini nor when. This makes perfect sense to me. A thousand bartenders across the 20th century must have dealt with customers who liked olives in their Martinis and requested something extra. More olives as garnish is one option. Varying their type and even stuffing them is another. But to add even extra essence of olive to the Martini why not just add some of the liquid the olives are stored in? Seems like a no-brainer to me, so I expect it to have been “invented” several times over.
The Dirty Martini does seem to have been a favourite of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States, from 1933 – 1945. The man was a hard drinker and allegedly an enthusiastic amateur bartender. Though despite being a great statesman, general opinion of those that knew him was that his talents did not extend to bartending.
Nevertheless, some sources attribute the Dirty Martini’s creation to him. And it’s certainly fair to say that his affiliation with it made him an excellent promoter for the cocktail. He is even reputed to have served one to Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943. Though history does not record Stalin’s verdict on it…
Classic Dirty Martini
As stated, the Dirty Martini is essentially a Dry Martini with the addition of olive brine. That is, the liquid that olives are stored in. As such, the type of olives you use and their quality will hugely impact the quality of this drink. Note also that lots of olives are instead stored in oil. You cannot use this oil to make a Dirty Martini. It doesn’t mix with the water/alcohol at all, resulting in an unpleasant and oily texture. Since I don’t like olives myself I can’t really comment on which you should use. Except to say that the Dirty Martinis I have made which seemed to be most appreciated by my customers used high quality queen olives stored in brine.
The simplest way to make a Dirty Martini is to pour your gin (or vodka) and vermouth into a mixing glass. Then add a bar spoon or two of olive brine (to taste). Add ice, stir, then strain out into a martini glass (or equivalent). Note that since you are not discarding the vermouth this makes the Dirty Martini also a Wet Martini. So be more careful than usual regarding how much vermouth you add.
Very Dirty Martini
Over time I developed my own method of making a Dirty Martini, acquired from a Martini bar in London I used to work in. It’s not the classic way to make one, but results in a far superior cocktail. It effectively takes the philosophy behind the classic Dirty Martini to its natural conclusion. It has proven very popular among customers who already liked a classic Dirty Martini. But I wouldn’t recommend it to those that aren’t really into their olives.
To start, take a pair of big, juicy queen olives and muddle them in a mixing glass. Really smash them up. Then add ~5ml of dry vermouth, and two shots of the gin or vodka of your taste. Stir over ice for about a minute, then double strain out into a martini glass (or equivalent). Garnish with another pair of queen olives.
The classic Dirty Martini looks like slightly dirty water. Definitely translucent, and usually transparent too. But this Very Dirty Martini is opaque, its colour being determined by the colour of the olives you used.