What Is a Dirty Martini?

What Is a Dirty Martini?

So, do you know what is a dirty martini? Either you just turned twenty-one, have never had a drop of alcohol in your life, or you have just been living under a rock for the last fifty years.

But, don’t worry. We are not here to judge you.

We are here to inform you and educate you. By the end of this blog, you will know everything you’ve ever wanted to when asking yourself, “Exactly what is a dirty martini?”

Let’s start with the first layer of the question in, “what is a dirty martini?” By unfolding what a regular (AKA - not dirty?) martini is.

But First… What Is a Martini?

A martini is a simple and classic cocktail. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a cocktail made of gin and dry vermouth.”

The martini is said to have originated for medicinal purposes.

The story of the martini starts with gin, a simple mixture of grain alcohol and juniper berry oil. In the 17th century Francois de Boe Sylvius, a Dutch medical professor, sought to relieve kidney disorders and purify the blood.

“Genever” is the Dutch word for Juniper and was the first step that served as an elixir to ease kidney pain, stomachaches, gout, and gallstones. Gin and Genever were both relatively easy and affordable to produce so their popularity quickly soared to become useful in other fields besides just the medical field.

Vermouth: Where Does It Come From?

Vermouth is the second component to creating the perfect martini. Vermouth originates as a wine used as a dessert in the 1700’s mainly in Italy. The word “Vermouth” is a German derivative of the English word “wormwood.”

Wormwood has been used for ages to treat intestinal worms, jaundice, and rheumatism.

Vermouth was originally made from a blend of juniper, wormwood flowers, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, mace, marjoram, brandy, white wine, and tree bark.

The modern version of Vermouth is a mix of white wine infused with a delicious herb and spice blend accompanied by alcohol, sugar, and just a hint of caramel.

The History Behind the Martini’s Name

Dirty Martini on the glass

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Let’s jump over to where the martini received its name. There are many different accounts and stories.

Some say the martini was invented in New York City by a bartender named Martini.

Others insist a Professor named Jerry Thomas invented the famous cocktail in 1850 for a miner on his way to Martinez, California. It is said that the miner set a piece of gold on top of Jerry’s bar and asked him to concoct something extra special for his journey’s west. The product was the first martini prototype, the Martinez.


The Martinez makes its first published appearance in 1887 in The Bartender’s Guide.

What Is a Dirty Martini?

We have discussed the origins and history of the classic martini - but what is a dirty martini?


The unique quality of a dirty martini is olive juice. Yes, you heard it right – olive juice!


Olive juice is the answer to the commonly asked question “what is a dirty martini?”


The olive juice adds a slightly cloudy appearance to the cocktail and without a doubt, a unique and salty taste. A dirty martini is the perfect mixture of gin, dry vermouth, olives, and a small amount of olive juice or olive brine.


Most bartenders and consistent dirty martini drinkers will say that making a dirty martini is an art. It requires the highest quality ingredients, a flawlessly chilled martini glass, and the correct portion of dirty martini ingredients - shaken to perfection.


The creation of a dirty martini is a widely discussed and important topic in the world of bars, drinkers, and the art of alcohol. Drinkers of dirty martinis tend to be extremely choosy when it comes to their dirty martini and its seamless composition.

Vodka or Gin

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Ah, the age old debate of whether a proper martini should contain vodka or gin.

We could toot each type of liquor’s horn, but we are going to leave it to your taste preference. If you like gin, make your dirty martini with gin. If you like vodka, make your dirty martini with vodka.

Vodka adds a certain earthiness because of its grains and rooted vegetable base (usually potatoes).

Gin cuts straight to the chase and is sourced from the rich and flavorful juniper botanicals. Gin also contains notes of spices and herbs so if that is your thing, a classic gin dirty martini is probably your best bet.

If you really want to get down to the heart of the matter, gin is really just a type of flavored vodka.

The Best Dirty Martini Recipes

Coming up, we will break down our favorite dirty martini recipes, because as you may have heard before, the devil is in the details.

1. Genius Kitchen’s Dirty Martini

Ice and wine on the glass

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Genius Kitchen is an amazing food and drink blog that serves nothing but realness.


They cut out the sugar and nice and bring the reader everything spice. They leave out the frill and publish only the best of the best. That is why we are constantly referring back to them to find the best recipes, cocktail concoctions, and culinary advice.



  • 2 oz. gin or vodka
  • ½ oz. extra-dry vermouth
  • ¼ oz. olive juice
  • 1 green olive

To prepare, mix all ingredients except for the olive into a cocktail mixer with two ice cubes. Pour contents of the mixer into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an olive.

2. Esquire’s Dirty Martini

Lemon and Dirty Martini - what is a dirty martini

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Did we not tell you that the devil is in the details? You will notice that these dirty martini recipes are almost exactly alike, but that is where the debate of a proper dirty martini begins and never ends.



  • 2 oz. gin
  • ¼ oz. extra-dry vermouth
  • ¼ oz. olive juice
  • Green olives
  • Ice cubes

To prepare Esquire’s version of a dirty martini, you will combine the gin, vermouth, and olive juice into a cocktail shaker. Esquire says to stir your martini instead of shaking it.


“Shaken or Stirred” Is also an age-old debate in the martini world.


Strain the contents into a chilled martini glass and garnish with as many olive as you can fit on a toothpick. Esquire likes it extra dirty, apparently.

3. Liquor.com’s Dirty Oaxacan Martini

Calamansi and wine

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We are going to branch out just a tad bit with this unique spin on the classic dirty martini. It is always fun to shake things up, is it not?


This dirty martini is made with mezcal instead of gin and creates a smoky and robust flavor to purse your thirst.



This twisted dirty martini is made by adding all the ingredients besides the garnish of the olive into a mix glass. Fill the mixing glass with ice, stir the concoction and strain into a chilled martini glass.


Garnish with as many Kalamata olives as your cute heart desires and enjoy.

4. Martha Stewart’s Extra Dirty Martini

Lemons dropping to Dirty Martini - what is a dirty martini

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Next up is Martha Stewart’s extra dirty martini recipe. Our girl Martha knows how to decorate, design, cook, and make drinks - and this extra dirty martini recipe is an instant classic!



  • 2 oz. vodka or gin
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • 4-5 teaspoons olive brine
  • Green olives
  • Ice cubes

To prepare Martha’s extra dirty martini, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add in your liquor of choice, olive brine, and the vermouth. Shake the mixture and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with green olives and drink up.

5. The Down And Dirty Martini

Straw on the wine glass - what is a dirty martini

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Last up on our dirty martini roster is The Kitchen Island’s Down and Dirty Martini. This specific recipe uses vodka but, you can of course, use gin too.



  • 1 oz. olive brine
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. vermouth
  • Green olives
  • Ice cubes

Fill the shaker with ice and pour in your liquor. Add in the vermouth and olive brine (extra olive brine to make it extra dirty) and then shake, shake, shake, baby! Strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass and garnish with three green olives.

Dirty Martinis for the Win

We hope this incredibly informative article helped to answer the trying questions in life like “What is a dirty martini?”

Whether it is shaken or stirred, made with gin or vodka, there is truly something extra fancy and satisfying about a well-made dirty martini.

If you are a fan of olives and liquor, you must add the Dirty Martini to your list of favorite drinks.