Dirty Martini vs Martini

When it comes to cocktails, the martini is a classic that has stood the test of time.


However, there are variations of the martini that have emerged over the years, including the dirty martini. While both cocktails share some similarities, there are key differences that set them apart.

A classic martini is made with gin and a small amount of dry vermouth, garnished with a lemon twist or olive. On the other hand, a dirty martini is made with gin, dry vermouth, and olive brine, which gives it a cloudy appearance and a salty taste. The addition of olive brine is what sets the dirty martini apart from its classic counterpart.

The difference in taste between the two cocktails can be quite significant, making it important to understand the distinction. While some may prefer the classic martini for its simplicity and clean taste, others may enjoy the added complexity and saltiness of the dirty martini. Understanding the difference between these two cocktails can help you make an informed decision when ordering at the bar.

The Martini: A Classic Cocktail

The martini is a classic cocktail that has been enjoyed for over a century. It is a simple yet elegant drink that has become a staple in bars and restaurants around the world.

a lychee martini cocktail

At its core, a classic martini is made with gin and vermouth, stirred with ice, and garnished with a lemon twist or olive. The ratio of gin to vermouth can vary depending on personal preference, but a common ratio is 2:1 or 3:1.

The use of gin in a classic martini gives the drink a clean taste that is perfect for sipping. Vermouth, a fortified wine, adds a touch of sweetness and complexity to the cocktail. The combination of these two ingredients creates a balanced and sophisticated drink that is enjoyed by many.

The way a martini is prepared can also affect its taste. Some people prefer their martini shaken, while others prefer it stirred. Shaking the martini with ice can dilute the drink slightly and create a frothy texture, while stirring it can create a smoother and more concentrated flavor.

A classic martini is typically served in a chilled martini glass, which adds to the elegance of the drink. The glass is often chilled beforehand to keep the drink at the perfect temperature.

The Dirty Martini: A Savory Twist

The Dirty Martini is a classic cocktail that has gained popularity over the years. It is a variation of the traditional Martini that adds a savory and salty twist to the drink.


The key ingredient that sets the Dirty Martini apart from its classic counterpart is olive brine. This brine is the liquid that is found in jars of olives and gives the Dirty Martini its signature flavor.

To make a Dirty Martini, vodka or gin is combined with dry vermouth and a splash of olive brine. The mixture is then shaken or stirred with ice and strained into a chilled martini glass. The drink is typically garnished with an olive or two, either stuffed or plain, and served straight up.

The use of olive brine in the Dirty Martini gives the drink a bold and savory flavor, which is a departure from the clean taste of a classic Martini. The brine adds a salty flavor to the cocktail, which is balanced out by the botanical notes of the gin or vodka. The level of brine used can vary from a “wet” Dirty Martini, which has more brine, to a “dry” Dirty Martini, which has less.

The garnish of the Dirty Martini is also an important aspect of the drink. The olive garnish is a classic choice and is often stuffed with various herbs and spices to add extra flavor to the cocktail. Some mixologists also use pickled onions or lemon twists as a garnish, depending on personal preference.

The Dirty Martini is a versatile cocktail that can be customized to suit individual tastes. Some drinkers prefer a “very dry” Dirty Martini, which has little to no vermouth, while others enjoy an “extra dirty” Martini, which has more olive juice added to the mix. The level of sweetness can also be adjusted by using sweet vermouth instead of dry vermouth.

Ingredients and Preparation

To make a classic martini, one needs gin or vodka, dry vermouth, and ice. The drink is usually stirred with ice and strained into a chilled martini glass. A lemon twist or olive garnish can be added for flavor and presentation.

two classic martinis garnished with lemon rinds

A dirty martini, on the other hand, requires the addition of olive brine or olive juice to the mix. The cloudy appearance and flavors of the olive brine add a unique twist to the classic martini. Some bartenders also add olives as an extra garnish.

When making a dirty martini, the ratio of gin or vodka to olive brine can vary depending on personal preference. Typically, a 2:1 ratio of gin or vodka to olive brine is used. The ingredients are added to a shaker filled with ice and shaken for about 15-20 seconds until well chilled. The drink is then strained into a chilled martini glass and garnished with olives.

The quality of the ingredients used can greatly affect the taste of the martini. Using a high-quality gin or vodka and fresh vermouth can make a big difference in the overall flavor of the drink. Some people also prefer to use sweet vermouth instead of dry vermouth, which can add a sweeter taste to the drink.

When it comes to mixing the drink, there is some debate over whether to shake or stir the ingredients. Shaking the ingredients can create a slightly cloudier appearance and a more diluted taste, while stirring can create a smoother and stronger drink. James Bond famously prefers his martini “shaken, not stirred,” but ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.

Martini Variations

The Martini is a classic cocktail that has been around for over a century.

Boozy Refreshing Chocolate Martini

Over the years, it has undergone several variations, each with its unique twist. Here are some of the popular Martini variations.

Classic Martini

The Classic Martini is made with gin and vermouth and is garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It is a simple yet sophisticated cocktail that has stood the test of time.

Dry Martini

A Dry Martini is made with a higher proportion of gin or vodka to vermouth, resulting in a less sweet and more potent drink. Some people prefer a very dry Martini, which has little or no vermouth.

Wet Martini

A Wet Martini has a higher proportion of vermouth to gin or vodka, resulting in a sweeter and less potent drink. Ironically, the term “wet” refers to the addition of more vermouth, not less.

Dirty Martini

A Dirty Martini is a classic Martini with a splash of olive brine added to it. This gives the drink a briny and salty taste. It is typically garnished with an olive or two.

Extra Dirty Martini

An Extra Dirty Martini is a Dirty Martini with even more olive brine added to it. This gives the drink an even stronger briny taste.

Gibson Martini

A Gibson Martini is similar to a classic Martini, but instead of an olive or a lemon twist, it is garnished with a pickled onion. This gives the drink a slightly sweeter taste.

two gibson martinis dirty drink

Vesper Martini

The Vesper Martini was made famous by James Bond in the novel “Casino Royale.” It is made with gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc instead of vermouth. It is garnished with a lemon twist.

Espresso Martini

The Espresso Martini is a modern twist on the classic Martini. It is made with vodka, espresso, and coffee liqueur. It is typically garnished with three coffee beans.

Each Martini variation has its unique taste and presentation. The choice of which one to drink depends on personal preference.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Rocco

Rocco is a Florida State University alumnus with years of bartending and hospitality experience. From slinging hundreds of vodka sodas a night in jam-packed college bars to serving carefully crafted cocktails in upscale restaurants, there’s not much he hasn’t done behind a bar. Now, Rocco shares his knowledge and passion for all things alcohol-related here on My Bartender for bibulous readers everywhere to enjoy.

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