Dirty Martini

Bedazzled with green olives, the Dirty Martini is instantly recognizable. Learn to make this sleek and sophisticated savory cocktail. Make it extra dirty if you dare! 

Olives in martini glasses with toothpicks.

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Best Dirty Martini recipe

Sleek and sophisticated, the dirty martini is one of the most recognized cocktails around the world.

Studded with green olives and a splash of olive brine, this savory cocktail is a must that will always be in fashion.

The dirty martini is a variation of the classic gin martini, a savory cocktail made with gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters. The classic martini is usually garnished with a lemon twist, though olives can be a garnish as well.

But what makes it dirty? That would be the olive juice. Yes, that’s the salty, briny liquid that olives are jarred with.

If you like a salty drink or a strong cocktail, learn to make the perfect dirty martini at home.

More classic cocktail recipes: Negroni SbagliatoManhattanVieux CarréGimlet

Two martini glasses with olives in them.

Why you’ll love this recipe

The dirty martini is beloved all over the world because…

  • It is a classic cocktail that is instantly recognizable. Every home bartender should know how to make a dirty martini for a guest or for themselves.
  • They are easy to make with just four ingredients.
  • Once you know how to make one you can make them over and over again or try one of the many different variations on the martini.
Olives in a martini glass.

What is a dirty martini?

The classic martini cocktail is an iconic drink made with gin and dry vermouth. The classic version often includes orange bitters and is served “with a twist” of lemon peel for garnish, and has an ever-so-slightly sweet flavor.

However, another typical garnish is a green olive or two. And if a splash of olive brine is added, it’s called a dirty martini.

You can also order a martini extra dirty, which will get you a bit more olive juice and more olives. 

However, it should be noted that the more brine that’s added to the drink, the less the gin and vermouth flavor shines through. The addition of olive brine can also give the drink a slightly cloudy appearance. 

Olives in a martini glass with a toothpick.

Tools & glassware

Making a martini is simple. You are not going to need a cocktail shaker here. Contrary to James Bond’s usual order (”shaken, not stirred”), the best martinis are stirred.

You will want to use a mixing glass and a bar spoon. (However, you can use the shaker as a mixing glass if that’s what you have.) You’ll also want a jigger and a Hawthorne strainer.

To serve the drink, you’ll need a martini glass, of course! There are lots of kinds of martini glasses. Traditional martini glasses are V-shaped vessels with a stem. However, a stemless martini glass can be a bit sturdier, and a coupe glass has a broader, rounder cup shape.

You can either drop the olives into the glass or skewer them on a cocktail pick and perch it on the rim of the glass. 

 
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Olives on toothpicks in a martini glass.

Ingredients

The martini is a fairly simple cocktail. It’s made with four simple ingredients:

  • Gin: Gin is classic, and London Dry Gin in particular is most popular. However, vodka can also be used in a dirty martini. Feel free to use your favorite vodka or gin here.
  • Dry vermouth: Dry vermouth is a fortified wine with a pale color and slightly sweet flavor. It also goes by French vermouth, white vermouth or vermouth secco.
  • Olives and brine: The things that make the martini “dirty” are the olives and a splash of their salty brine. Add extra olives if you like! 
Olive skewers in martini glasses.

Best olives for a dirty martini

When choosing olives for martinis, you want to choose the right kind.

First of all, green olives, not black ones, are key. A Sicilian-style olive is a great place to start.

Second, you want jarred olives preserved in brine, not oily ones drizzled with olive oil and herbs that you might find at an olive bar.

My personal favorite olives are Castelvetrano olives, but there are tons of varieties to choose from:

  • Manzanilla olives: Spanish olives with a nutty, smoky flavor
  • Castelvetrano olives: Sicilian olives with a large with a buttery, salty flavor
  • Picholine olives: French olives with a mild, slightly fruity flavor
  • Losada olives: Spanish olives with a meaty, salty flavor

Olives can be plain or pitted and stuffed with fillings for extra flavor. These blue cheese stuffed olives give the cocktail an extra sharp bite. You can also stuff olives with almonds, jalapeño or pimento peppers.

Make lots of martinis? You can buy olive brine on its own so you don’t have to raid your garnish jar each time.

Variations and substitutions

Mix things up with one of these variations:

Dirty vodka martini: ​Feel free to substitute vodka for gin for a less herbal flavor

Pickle martini: You can also make a dirty martini with some pickle juice and garnish it with a cornichon or a pickle slice.

Pepperon’tini: Use pickled pepperoncini peppers and their brine to make this peppery version.

Gibson: Use a pickled cocktail onion for your garnish and the drink gets the name of Gibson.

You can also feel free to add more vermouth (wet martini) or less vermouth (dry martini). 

How to make a Dirty Martini

Here’s how to make this classic dirty martini recipe:

A cocktail with a gold spoon in a mixing glass.
A person pouring water into a glass.

Get out a mixing glass (or use any glass or shaker) and add a few ice cubes. Add the gin, dry vermouth and olive brine. Stir together gently with a bar spoon until the mixture is chilled.

Strain the drink into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with olives.

Olives in a martini glass.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making this recipe:

  • For more olive flavor, add the olives to the glass before pouring in the drink mixture.
  • Experiment with different types of olives to find your favorite brine and garnish.
  • To make dirty martinis for a crowd, you can stir up a big batch and serve them from a large pitcher. You can also stash it in the fridge to have dirty martinis ready to drink anytime.
Olives in martini glasses with toothpicks.

What to serve with a Dirty Martini

Martinis are a great happy hour drink before a meal, especially because they are savory cocktails.

Enjoy them with appetizers like marinated cheese or a charcuterie board.

They’re also delicious with a hearty dinner of grilled skirt steak. Make it surf and turf with some popcorn shrimp.

FAQ

What are the best olives for a dirty martini?

Castelvetrano olives have a mild, buttery and salty flavor that works beautifully in a dirty martini. You can also use Manzanilla, Picholine or Losada olives.

What is in a dirty martini?

Dirty martinis are different from classic martinis because they contain olives and olive brine in addition to gin and dry vermouth.

More gin cocktails

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A martini glass with olives in it.

Dirty Martini

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Learn to make the best Dirty Martini! These classic cocktails are the perfect savory delight.
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ingredients

  • 2 ounces London dry gin or vodka
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • ½ ounce olive brine
  • 4 green olives such as Castelvestrano, for garnish

instructions

  • Add ice cubes to a mixing glass.
  • Add the gin, dry vermouth and olive brine.
  • Stir together gently with a bar spoon until the mixture is chilled.
  • Strain the drink into a martini glass. Garnish with olives.

notes

Tips and tricks

  • For more olive flavor, add the olives to the glass before pouring in the drink mixture. 
  • To make an extra dirty martini, add ¼ to ½ ounce more olive brine. 
  • Experiment with different types of olives to find your favorite brine and garnish.
  • To make dirty martinis for a crowd, you can stir up a big batch and serve them from a large pitcher. You can also stash it in the fridge to have dirty martinis ready to drink anytime.

The best olives for martinis

  • Manzanilla olives: Spanish olives with a nutty, smoky flavor
  • Castelvetrano olives: Sicilian olives with a large with a buttery, salty flavor
  • Picholine olives: French olives with a mild, slightly fruity flavor
  • Losada olives: Spanish olives with a meaty, salty flavor

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 cocktail

amount per serving:

Serving: 3.5oz Calories: 177kcal Carbohydrates: 1g Protein: 0.2g Fat: 2g Saturated Fat: 0.3g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g Monounsaturated Fat: 2g Sodium: 664mg Potassium: 28mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 0.4g Vitamin A: 63IU Calcium: 11mg Iron: 0.2mg
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