How to Make the Perfect Dirty Martini

Whether you’ve only recently found your love for gin and vermouth or you want to expand your classic martini repertoire, dirty martinis might just become your drink of choice. The great news for olive lovers is that you can finish off the jar, and then make your drink (well, leave just one for a topping).

Four Simple Ingredients plus Ice

A perfect dirty martini needs just three ingredients: three ounces of good vodka, 1 ounce of dry vermouth, and half an ounce of olive brine. It’s this brine that gives the dirty martini its name. Fill a shaker halfway with cracked ice and pour the three liquids in on top. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Skewer an olive and garnish the glass.

Alternatively, you can try a recipe that involves more olives and vodka, and less vermouth. Combine six ounces of vodka, one ounce of olive brine, just a dash of dry vermouth and four stuffed olives. Drink on the rocks in a highball or pour into a chilled martini glass. This dirty martini would be “drier” than the first recipe, since it contains less vermouth.

What Vermouth Is Exactly

Nobody thinks much about vermouth, but it’s highly important when making the perfect martini. Vermouth is actually a type of wine that’s been aromatized, which means it has taken on the flavor and smells of the roots, spices, herbs, sugars, and flowers that were added to it. It was originally flavored with wormwood (in German, the word is “wermut”), which lead to its name.

Typically, vermouth comes in two varieties: dry and sweet. Dry vermouth is most common in martinis and it’s more bitter than sweet vermouth because it doesn’t contain sugar. Sweet vermouth is sometimes drunk all by itself. Both types of vermouth are used in many cocktail recipes and some martini aficionados will even use both at the same time in their martini recipe.

Martinis that use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth are called either “perfect” martinis or a “50-50.” So perhaps the “perfect” dirty martini would feature three ounces of vodka, half an ounce each of sweet and dry vermouth, and half an ounce of olive brine.

Variations on a Martini

The Gibson is one of the most famous variations on a typical martini. Whether attributed to 1930s illustrator Charles Dana Gibson of Gibson Girls fame or the lesser-known Walter D.K. Gibson in the late 1800s, the drink doesn’t deviate from its use of cocktail onions in place of olives as the garnish.

A vodka martini is just what it sounds like: It uses vodka in place of gin and also tends to feature a lemon rind in lieu of olives. James Bond’s “shaken not stirred” martini contained Gordons gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet, shaken until ice cold and then topped with a thin lemon peel slice. At the time this was written in “Casino Royale,” Kina Lillet was a wine-based tonic flavored with quinine, and the Bond martini would have been incredibly bitter.

Saveur magazine contends that the original 1910-era dry martini featured a more equal ratio of vermouth to gin, in addition to orange bitters and orange peel. Its recipe, published 100 years later in 2010, called for one-and-a-half ounces of dry gin, one-and-a-half ounces of dry vermouth, and two dashes of orange bitters, along with the strip of orange peel. These are to be stirred together for 15 seconds in a large glass and then strained into a chilled martini glass.

Many martini recipes these days have nothing at all in common with a classic martini, except that the bartenders pour the mixtures into chilled martini glasses. Surprisingly, Bond actually asked for his martini to be poured into a champagne goblet.

Variations on a Martini Glass

Martini glasses have a recognizable V shape on a stem, and come in sizes from six to 12 ounces. You can even find smaller two-ounce sizes perfect for tasting parties.

Many manufacturers now make stemless martini glasses, similar to stemless wine glasses. However, where the warmth of your hand can help release the aromas and tastes in a Cabernet Sauvignon, bringing out its nuances and making it even tastier, the warmth from your hand can really ruin a good, chilled martini.

Stick to a classic martini glass for your perfect martini. If you’re feeling wild, check out the painted glasses made by Lolita or the Swerve curved martini glasses from Swank Martini.