The Best Ways to Filth Up Your Dirty Martini

The Best Ways to Filth Up Your Dirty Martini
Hello from my comically large martini glass. (Photo: Claire Lower)

I will always love the dirty martini. It was my gateway into the wild and wonderful world of gin, and I love any excuse to drink brine. After all, the key to making a classic dirty martini lies in letting the brine replace — rather than supplement — some of the vermouth, so as not to over-dilute the gin.

A ratio of 2- 7 ml gin, 1/2-ounce brine, and 14 ml vermouth makes a beautifully salty gin drink, but even a flawless classic can use an update every now and again. Here are four ways you can filth your cocktail up a little, should you ever need to break out of this very specific rut.

Switch out the brine

I have been shouting about the pickletini for years, and a lot of people have shouted back right back at me. Some of those shouts have been hurtful, but I remain steadfast in my dedication to this salty, sour cocktail. Using pickle brine instead of olive brine adds acid to your drink, invigorating it with brightness.

A standard neon green dill brine works quite well, as does the Trader Joe’s cornichon brine, or any other liquid that serves as the brining agent for a cucumber pickle. I’m also quite partial to pickled green tomato brine, caper brine, pickled onion brine (for a dirty Gibson), and pickled ginger brine. Pretty much any brine will work, is what I’m saying.

Rinse the glass with Scotch

Salt and smoke play very well together, especially if you get some savoury stuffed olives involved. Smoking a coupe with a bit of wood works just fine, but you can achieve the same flavour profile with just a barspoon’s worth of peaty Scotch.

Pour a spoonful in the (chilled) coupe or martini glass, swirl it around a bit, then dump it out (perhaps into your mouth, so as not to waste it). Make your dirty martini however you usually do, then strain it into the scotch-scented vessel. Garnish with a blue cheese- or almond-stuffed olive.

Season with pepper

Pepper is salt’s best friend (they literally travel together across the table), and your salty drink will benefit from a couple of cracks of pungent peppercorns. Don’t trust me on this? That’s fine. (I’m kind of shifty.) But you should trust Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, who garnishes her Seriously Dirty Martinis with a few grinds of fresh black pepper. I do, however, recommend branching out in terms of peppercorn colours. A pink pepper martini would be incredible.

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