You can argue until the cows come home whether it should be shaken or stirred and whether it must be made with gin or if vodka is equally permissible, but what you can’t argue against (with any real hope of winning) is that the martini is one of the finest cocktails ever devised. Elegantly simple, beloved for generations, and yes, a symbol of the coolest gentleman spy to ever grace the page or screen, the martini is a pinnacle achievement of mixology. And with this recipe from chef and recipe developer Michelle McGlinn, it’s a classic cocktail you can make at home.
While many may be scared off by the perceived expertise needed to make a proper martini, the only real secret to making a masterful rendition of this libation is proper measurement of ingredients and working swiftly. "The biggest mistake to avoid is over-diluting the drink," says McGlinn, adding, "The ice melts pretty quickly once you start stirring and dilutes the flavor of the spirit." So shall we work quickly ourselves and get to it? After all, it’s almost five o’clock somewhere!
Gather your classic dirty martini ingredients
What you will definitely need for a great dirty martini is dry vermouth, olive brine, olives, ice, and your preferred liquor. You can choose gin or vodka there; just make sure it’s a pure distilled liquor, not a flavored spirit. "I offered two options: gin or vodka," McGlinn says. She explains: "I’d recommend using vodka if you want more olive flavor or simply dislike gin, as vodka has a much more neutral taste and will adapt to the flavors of the cocktail. If you love gin, you will want to use gin in this."
As for other ingredients to consider? "A lemon twist without any olive brine makes a classic martini, and onions make a Gibson," says McGlinn. "And an olive-and-onion martini? Could be interesting!"
Prepare your glasses and ingredients
Chill the martini glass by placing it in the freezer while building the drink; if you have time to plan ahead, chill your mixing glass, too. Right before mixing time, measure out ½ ounce of the vermouth, 2 ½ ounces of liquor, and spear a couple olives onto a toothpick. As for the olive brine, start with ½ ounce at the ready. "Avoid over-pouring the olive brine," McGlinn says. "I did a version using an ounce of brine, and it was too salty for my taste. Start with less and expect the garnish to add a bit of flavor as well."
Okay, ingredients ready? Then grab your chilled hardware and place ice cubes in the cocktail shaker or mixing glass.
Build the martini
Working quickly so as not to dilute the spirits, pour the vermouth, the gin (or the vodka), and the olive brine into your mixing glass. Stir until everything is well chilled; do not allow the ice to melt completely. While James Bond orders his martini "shaken, not stirred," you should opt for the latter for the real deal. "Shaking gin hurts its flavor, and in a drink heavy in spirits, stirring will create a density that allows for slower sipping," McGlinn explains. "You want a silky — not frothy or airy — texture!"
Once stirred, strain the cocktail into the chilled martini glass and garnish with the olives on the cocktail pick. And that’s it! Enjoy your sophisticated sips.
Food for thought on your drink
As you sip, allows us to offer a few thoughts to entertain. First, McGlinn stresses the importance of using high-quality ingredients if possible: "There are so few ingredients, you want to make each one shine. And that doesn’t have to mean expensive; all of my ingredients are budget-friendly."
As for when she suggests a martini is best enjoyed, McGlinn believes the drink is "perfect as an aperitif before a steak dinner," due to its unique flavor profile. "My favorite thing about this drink is that it’s something that suits salt-forward tastes. So many cocktails are so sweet or simply spirit-forward [while] the dirty martini offers a truly salty drink, making it much more savory than its classic and fruity counterparts. Plus, it’s super classy."
Indeed, we say. And cheers!
James Bond loves it, and we do, too. Find out how to mix one of the most classic (and classy) cocktails out there: the dirty martini, made with gin or vodka.
- 3 ice cubes
- ½ ounce dry vermouth
- 2 ½ ounces gin or vodka
- ½ ounce olive brine
- 2 olives, to garnish
- Chill martini glass by placing in the freezer while building the drink.
- Place ice cubes in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass.
- Working quickly so as not to dilute the spirits, pour in vermouth, gin (or vodka), and olive brine.
- Stir until chilled; do not allow the ice to melt completely.
- Strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with olives on a cocktail pick.