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Three Ways: The Dirty Martini

The resurgent popularity of the Martini—from classic to Espresso to Apple—shows no signs of slowing. And perhaps the most riffed upon of all the drink’s forms is the ever-cheeky Dirty Martini. Dirty, of course, is subjective, and the drink exists on a spectrum from a dash of salinity to downright filthy. But a good Dirty Martini should have a raison d’être, with the intrinsically appealing qualities of a classic Martini merely amplified by the addition of a salty, savory oomph. Here are three versions that get dirty, but keep it classy.

Dacha Martini

At Kachka in Portland, Oregon, they celebrate the culinary diaspora of the former Soviet states, so it’s no surprise that the house Martinis are made with vodka. Their take on a Dirty Martini also gets an Eastern European twist by swapping the standard olive juice for pickle brine and accenting with celery bitters. “The pickle brine brings a lively brightness to the cocktail, while also adding a savory saline element with the cucumber flavor that plays well off the celery bitters and dry vermouth,” says bar manager Jamie Cecchine, who created the recipe.

2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. pickle brine
1/4 oz. dry vermouth
1 dash celery bitters

Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: skewered pickle slice

To mix the drink, combine all of the ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Give it a quick stir to chill, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a skewered pickle slice.

Jamie Cecchine, Kachka, Portland, Oregon

Inverted Dirty Martini

Playing off the build of a Reverse Martini, the team at Pigtail in Chicago emphasizes the savory side in their Inverted Dirty by starting with a base of Spanish blanco vermouth. Rather than London dry gin, the cocktail swaps in malty genever and bumps it all up a notch with a dash of saline. “The team wanted to flip the classic Dirty Martini by highlighting the elegant aromatics and flavor of a Spanish vermouth,” says beverage manager Kimberly Klinger. “Instead of the classic olive brine and olive garnish, our Martini is finished with a spherified olive, using Chef José Andrés’ liquid olive technique. The surprise here is a bit of Valdeón blue cheese in the center, lending salinity and a savory note to the drink.” (For mixing at home, a blue cheese–stuffed olive is perfectly acceptable.)

2 oz. Spanish blanco vermouth (Pigtail uses Yzaguirre Blanco Reserva)
1 oz. genever
2 dashes orange bitters
1 dash saline solution (4:1 water to salt)

Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: blue cheese–stuffed olive

To make the cocktail, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 10 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express a lemon peel over the drink and garnish with a blue cheese–stuffed olive.

Pigtail, Chicago

Salt & Pepper Martini

At New York City Martini haven Temple Bar, Michael McIlroy created a Dirty Martini to satisfy cravings both savory and spicy. “The Salt & Pepper Martini is a savory Martini variation that uses celery, espelette [chile] liqueur, and manzanilla sherry to play on the drink’s namesake—salt and pepper,” explains head bartender Samantha Casuga. “Although packed with flavor, it drinks as a dry Martini, leaving the mouth watering, and its perfect little Sweety Drop pepper garnish makes for a sweet and spicy finish.”

2 oz. London dry gin
1/2 oz. blanc vermouth
1/2 oz. manzanilla sherry
1/4 oz. chile liqueur (McIlroy uses Giffard Piment d’Espelette)
8 dashes celery bitters
3 drops saline solution (4:1 water to salt)

Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Glass: coupe
Garnish: Sweety Drop pepper

To mix the drink, in a mixing glass combine all of the ingredients. Add ice and stir to chill,
then strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a Sweety Drop pepper.

Michael McIlroy, Temple Bar, New York City

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