As it was National Vodka Day in America on the 3 October, that basically means it’s International Vodka Day so we’re using that as an excuse to whip up a Dirty Martini.

Well, you can start calling us Master of Martinis because we’ve got another one here for Cocktail of the Week. Last week we went on the delicate and floral route with the Rose and Cardamom Martini, but now we’re getting boozy, briney, and downright dirty. 

We’re making Dirty Martinis of course! This is the salty cousin to the classic Dry Martini. For some, a sure-fire way to murky the taste of a good gin or vodka, but for others, it’s full of lip-smacking umami that enhances the base spirit.

Genius or terrible, whoever came up with the idea of adding olive brine to alcohol is also a little hazy. The always brilliant Difford’s Guide cites the origins of the Dirty Martini as having its roots in a Dry Martini that found its way to being muddled with olives by bartender John E. O’Connor at the Waldorf Astoria in 1901, and a written record of olive brine being used in a cocktail appearing some 30 years later. The Dirty Martini’s reputation certainly hasn’t been helped by the stories of Franklin D. Roosevelt mixing up famously horrendous batches of the briny stuff.

Dirty Martini

Just one olive? Don’t be shy for goodness sake.

Simple savoury goodness

Whether you’re someone who steers away from the dirty stuff, or you’ve been sipping olive brine straight out the jar for years, the Dirty Martini is having a resurgence. And for good reason. If you’re sick of sugary spritzes, the savoury edge the Dirty Martini offers is a welcome antidote. They’re strong and straightforward, so you know exactly what you’re getting, and how much of it you’re getting – something that the unit conscious can appreciate. 

The Dirty Martini is also one of those brilliant cocktails that relies on very few ingredients, and most importantly, comes with its own snack, which you’re going to need if you’re knocking them back of an evening. I like mine with an atrocious amount of olives apparently (that’s four to five), although the more the merrier in my book.

A good Dirty Martini starts with a clean base. You can go in either the gin or vodka direction, but seeing as across the pond it’s National Vodka Day, and we do like to jump on any excuse to celebrate, we’re sticking with vodka. We’re going with a very clean base indeed, with Elit Vodka in this case, which claims to have all traces of methanol removed, and is freeze-filtered at -18 degrees Celsius at ultra slow velocity over ion charged filters apparently. All very cool and sciencey, and it makes for a deliciously creamy base for our cocktail. 

Dirty Martini

An elite Elit Dirty Martini

Making the Martini

Vermouth is a personal preference really, but you can’t go wrong with a classic in Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Dry and you can make all the Martini variations with it too if you’re feeling something slightly cleaner. Then there’s how much olives/olive brine you use. We’re going on the dirtier side of Dirty today (stop sniggering) and I love the anchovy-stuffed ones for extra savouriness. Just make sure they’re actually in brine and not oil.

Here’s our Dirty Martini recipe:

60ml Elit Vodka
15ml Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Dry
15ml olive brine

In a mixing glass, stir everything together with plenty of ice to dilute. Strain into a well-chilled Martini glass, and garnish with olives.