A martini is a predinner alcoholic drink traditionally served in a special cocktail glass. A triangular top with a tall stem is the preferred style, commonly called the martini glass. Countless martini recipes have spun off the original. Some are considered mainstream, while others are only for the adventurous palate. A popular variation of the martini is the dirty martini. Although they have their differences, which is “better” is a matter of personal taste.

The Basics

The most common recipe for the martini is 2 1/2 oz. gin to 1/2 oz. dry vermouth. Shake the drink with ice, and strain it into a glass. Garnish with either a twist of lemon rind or an olive on a toothpick. Adding 2 tbsp. olive juice makes it a dirty martini, which is garnished with two olives with or without a toothpick and no lemon. Glasses for both recipes are optionally chilled before being filled.


Although the history of the martini is somewhat cloudy, the first named published recipe for it appears in the 1888 “New and Improved Illustrated Bartending Manual.” Gin is a derivative of the juniper berry and was created in 1650 by Dr. Francis de la Boe Sylvius. Vodka is made from grain, and its historical origins are fuzzy. The martini’s popularity skyrocketed after British Agent 007, James Bond, ordered a martini in the hit movie “Dr. No.” The dirty martini mysteriously appeared on the American bar scene sometime later, but its true origin is unknown.


Although some purists insist the only way to drink a proper martini is with gin, vodka is frequently substituted for gin in recipes or simply added as an extra ingredient. The drink without gin is properly called a vodka martini or dirty vodka martini, but quite frequently “vodka” is dropped from the name, particularly when other items are added to the drink. Some variations include the chocolate martini and apple martini.


Different types of stuffed green olives are acceptable as garnishes in martinis and dirty martinis. Although olives are traditionally stuffed with pimentos, cocktail olive garnishes may be stuffed with hot peppers, cocktail onions, blue cheese or garlic instead. Using olive brine from these varieties for dirty martinis is not called for in recipes, however, because the olive juice is usually very salty and ruins the taste of the drink itself.


One of the advantages to making dirty martinis is not wasting the olive brine in the jar that comes with the olives. However, after you have made several dirty martinis, the brine will be gone, and the olives will sit in a dry jar without preservative. They will not last long this way. One alternative is to buy commercially packaged olive brine, juice without the olives. Another option is to combine olives into one jar with just enough brine to cover them, using another jar for juice only.