Dirty martinis are among the most popular cocktails around. They have a special place in both our bars and our pop culture. You might remember James Bond in the movie “Casino Royale” (based on Ian Fleming’s 1953 book of the same name) ordering his martini “shaken, not stirred.” His words have since turned into a catchphrase and a martini-making slogan. Or perhaps you’re a Sex and the City fan and recall the scene where Samantha is slighted by her love interest, Richard, and hurls her cocktail at him, yelling “dirty martini, dirty bastard” as she stomps out of the restaurant.
So what is a dirty martini? And how do you make a good one?
First off, for the 007 fans out there, James Bond’s drink was actually not a dirty martini, but rather a Vesper. The Vesper is made with both gin and vodka plus Kina Lillet (a French wine-based aperitif) and garnished with a lemon peel instead of the infamous olive. The original dirty martini, on the other hand, is made with only gin, dry vermouth, an olive or two, and a splash of olive brine. Vodka-based martinis have become more popular lately, but you should never use both vodka and gin to create a dirty martini. If you’re wondering, it’s the olives (and brine) that make a martini “dirty.” But don’t get too dirty: too much olive juice can lead to disastrous results.
Second, Bond’s infamous request for his drink to be “shaken, not stirred” is actually the opposite of the line that originally appeared in the book, and bad advice for martini making. The original phrase is “stirred, not shaken.” That apparently didn’t deliver as great of a line for the movie. In any case, shaking your martini will likely melt and break more of the ice compared to gentle stirring, leading to a cocktail that is more diluted and cloudier. It depends on your taste, but most drinkers will opt for a stronger, clearer cocktail. Expert baristas with a knack for science, also recommend that you use a wooden rather than a metal spoon to stir because a wooden spoon will transfer less heat into the cocktail, thereby melting less of the ice.
Now that we have those two misconceptions out of the way let’s move on to the exciting part, namely, how to create that perfect dirty martini. It takes just a few simple steps.
1. Gather the necessary ingredients and appliances
You will need vodka or gin, a splash of dry or extra dry vermouth depending on taste, olive juice (you can use the brine solution from a jar of olives), cocktail olives, a mixing glass, a wooden spoon, ice, martini glasses, and toothpicks to spear the olives. Of course, any kind of spoon or mixing utensil will do. You can also use a cocktail shaker if you want to follow Bond’s advice from the movie and prefer a weaker drink.
2. Chill your martini glasses
You should stick them in the freezer for a little while before you serve the drink in order to keep the drink chilled once served. If you don’t have enough time to do that, simply filling up the martini glass with ice water for a bit and then emptying it out before serving the cocktail should do the trick.
3. Fill your cocktail shaker or mixing glass with ice cubes
It should be about halfway to three-quarters of the way full. Just enough to chill the drink but not so many that it becomes watered down. Also, you want to be sure all of your liquids will also fit into the container.
4. Pour the ingredients into the shaker or mixing glass
Mix the vodka or gin, a splash of vermouth, and a splash of olive juice in the ice-filled container. The ratio should be about four parts vodka or gin for every part olive brine or dry vermouth (i.e., if you’re using four ounces of vodka, you should add one ounce of olive juice and one ounce of vermouth).
5. Mix the ingredients together
If you’re using a shaker, close it and shake it for five to thirty seconds, depending on how cold and strong you want the drink to be. The more you shake, the colder the drink becomes. Too much shaking can also dilute the drink and dampen its taste. If you’re stirring instead of shaking, use a spoon or mixer, preferably made of wood, to stir the ingredients and ice in the mixing glass.
6. Pour the cocktail into the chilled martini glasses
7. Spear one to three olives with a toothpick for garnish
You should let the olives soak up the cocktail and have them at the end of the drink as a treat.
That’s it! If you find that your martini doesn’t taste as great as you hoped, switch between stirring and shaking and vodka and gin and play around with the quantities of vermouth and olive brine until you get a cocktail that tastes just right.