The Dirty Vodka Martini

I’ll never forget my first martini, which happened to be a dirty vodka martini.  I was in an upscale restaurant and the bartender really knew her stuff.   The martini was extra dry, ice cold and had a hint of olive.  The vodka didn’t overpower the drink nor did the olive take center stage.  It was smooth going down and pleasant to taste.

I’ll also never forget the first time I tried to duplicate that perfect martini at home.  Not knowing the slightest thing about vodka (or how to concoct a martini for that matter), I went out and got a bottle of Absolut.  I then grabbed the first bottle of vermouth I saw and grabbed a jar of “martini” olives, soaked in vermouth.  Reading some recipe found in one of those “bartender” guides you see in TJ Maxx for $1.99, I carefully measured 2 oz. vodka and about ½ oz. of vermouth.  I then added five olives …more is better, right?!  Well, the martini was not even drinkable.  One taste and I was sickened.  The vermouth overpowered the drink and the vodka was harsh and cheap.  Then I got hit with the brininess of the vermouth-soaked olives.  Yech!

Years later, I like to think that I have learned a thing or two about how to make the proper dirty vodka martini.  Better than the first one I had, I have tweaked my own recipe over the years.  Here’s a general description of how I do it:

First, start with some good vodka.  My friend loves the extol the virtues of potato based vodka, and to some extent I agree with him that premium potato vodkas are excellent.  But the bottom line is that you need to shell out enough cash to get a premium vodka that works for you.  However, finding the one particular vodka that is right for you requires serious (read: expensive) experimentation.

Next…what good is a premium vodka if you are going to add cheap or old vermouth?  A bottle of Martini & Rossi Extra Dry from your local supermarket is not exactly a bad vermouth…but it is not a good one either!  Gallo?  Nah…still cheap.  Martini Bianco?  Nope.  Cinzano?  Getting there…  Lillet Blanc?  Not really a vermouth…so not really a martini!    Noilly Prat?  Now we’re talking.  Vya?  Very nice.  And guess what?  Vermouth doesn’t last forever…it goes bad…and you need to replace it!  (Hint: Store in refrigerator)

Ok…so you went out and got some premium vodka and some top shelf dry vermouth.  Now what?  Olives.  My ideal pick is the feta-stuffed olives from Whole Foods.  At around $7.99 for 12 olive oil cured gems, they aren’t cheap.  But again, why add cheap ingredients to premium vodka?  For the brine, I tend to like the Santa Barbara olives (unstuffed)….but any olive brine will do.

Now that you have all the ingredients…time to make the dirty martini.  Fill a cocktail shaker (a stainless steel one) with good ice (not that white refrigerator ice-maker stuff).  Add 2 oz. vodka and about to ¼ tsp. dry vermouth.  Add about 1 tsp. olive brine.  Shake vigorously.  Immediately pour into a chilled martini glass.  Spear one olive of your choice and add it to the martini.  Now go savor the martini…preferably away from any kind of stressful situation (such as spouses, kids, etc.)

Like gin martinis?  Bombay is great stuff…but go try Hendrick’s and repeat the above recipe, replacing the vodka with the gin.  Enjoy!


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