The Story Behind The Dirty Martini

Either loved or hated, the Dirty Martini is one of cocktail culture’s most polarizing drinks. Cocktail historian David Wondrich believes the concept of a savory Martini was born in New York when bartender John E. O’Connor served a Martini with muddled olives at his bar, the iconic Waldorf Astoria. While the adulterated drink didn’t initially include a dash of brine, that changed sometime between 1901 and 1930, as it appeared as an ingredient for a Martini in G.H. Steele’s “My New Cocktail Book.”

Bartenders have since elevated the concept of a savory Martini with the addition of lacto-fermented garnishes, and other umami-driven flavors that resemble a similar flavor profile to the classic. It is traditionally made with gin, but vodka is preferred by many enthusiasts. It may not suit your fancy, but it has its place in drink culture and is worth trying at least once — when properly executed, it can be an exceptional tipple.


  • 2 ¼ ounces gin (preferably Sipsmith London Dry gin)
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth (preferably Noilly Prat)
  • ¼ ounce olive brine
  • Garnish: 3 pickled olives


  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Stir until chilled and diluted, and strain into a chilled coupe.
  3. Garnish with olives on a cocktail pick.

Rate This Recipe:

(193 votes)

Yield: 1
Calories: 128
Updated: 2022-10-14

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Dirty Martini FAQ

Is a Dirty Martini better with gin or vodka?

A Dirty Martini is traditionally made with gin, but many Martini fanatics prefer vodka. While vodka allows the brininess of olive juice to shine, gin adds a complementary layer of botanical flavor. No matter which spirit you choose, you can’t go wrong.

What is a Dirty Martini made of?

A Dirty Martini is made of gin, dry vermouth, and olive brine.

What does a Dirty Martini taste like?

A Dirty Martini is going to taste savory and slightly salty, thanks to the addition of olive brine. If using gin, it will taste like the botanicals used in the spirit.