What is a Dirty Cocktail?

July 12, 2022 by Helena Lombard

A Dirty Cocktail is a bit rough around the edges, but that’s precisely how it should be. Dirty cocktails are for the adventurous drinker who likes to take risks. And it’s for those craving something more savoury in their drink. For some, the idea of a dirty cocktail is a bit much, but it’s absolute bliss for others. And that’s totally cool because it keeps life interesting.

Why is it called a dirty cocktail?

Front shot of two Dirty Bloody Marys with olive, celery, pickle and crispy bacon garnish

Hey now! Take your head out of the gutter. This isn’t that kind of cocktail party. But then again, it’s not as tame as vanilla, either. It’s a dirty cocktail because this classic drink has taken a skinny dip in the savoury pool.  

When done right, a dirty cocktail is an interesting mix of flavours that complement each other and gives the drink an exciting edge.  

But what makes a cocktail dirty? Simple. It’s been dirtied. By brine. And other things. Dirty, delicious things. Like jalapeño juice, capers, and pickle juice. You can also ‘dirty’ a cocktail by swapping out the hero liquor with a different alternative.  

Once you understand the beauty of getting a little dirty, you’ll be hooked.

What is a Dirty Martini?

Of all the dirty drinks out there, the Dirty Martini is probably the most famous. To make one, you’re going to make a Classic Martini but take it one step further by adding a splash of olive brine to the mix. This cloudy cocktail has a slightly salty taste, with hints of olive. Ask for extra dirty or filthy if you want more brine for an even bigger savoury punch.

Other ways to order your Martini

Bartender straining Martini into martini glass

Martinis are classic, and a good one is unforgettable. This iconic cocktail has been around for a long time, and for a good reason. It’s sophisticated and complex—and we think it’s safe to say that it will never go out of fashion. In fact, the Gibson Martini, 50/50 Martini, and Lychee Martini are all having a big moment. So, if you want to catch this trend train, serve them at your next dinner party.  

But back to the classic. You can serve (or order) your Martini in a few different ways.  

Here are a few variations to help you navigate the exciting world of Martinis:

  • Dry Martini: Very little vermouth, with gin or vodka being the hero ingredient. Make it with 75ml gin and 15ml dry vermouth. 
  • Wet Martini: The opposite of dry, this Martini is on the sweeter side with two parts gin and one part vermouth. 
  • Martini with a twist: This is a Classic Martini, served with a citrus peel instead of olives. For the best result, hold and twist the lemon peel over the drink to release aromatic oils into the Martini. Once you’re done twisting, drop the peel into the glass.  
  • Burnt Martini: Make a Dry Martini, but add a dash of smoky single malt Scotch whisky and orange bitters to the mix.  
  • Straight up: If someone asks you for a straight-up Martini, it’s the traditional way of serving this cocktail. Simply prepare with ice and strain it into a chilled glass. 
  • Perfect Martini: A perfect martini mixes half an ounce of vermouth and half an ounce of sweet vermouth with two ounces of vodka or gin.  
  • Shaken: Like Bond. James Bond. On ice, in a cocktail shaker for around 30 seconds until really cold. This version slightly dilutes the Martini.  
  • Stirred: Stir the Martini in an ice-filled cocktail shaker for around 45 seconds before straining it into a chilled glass. 
  • Thrown: Use this popular flair technique if you really want to impress your guests. Throwing a cocktail is also known as rolling or tossing, and you’ll pour the cocktail back and forth between two shakers. But you’re going to add some dramatic flair. 
  • On the Rocks: This means you want your Martini served in a tumbler filled with ice. 
  • Gibson Martini: This is one of our favourites at the moment—and the twist is simply in the garnish. Make a Classic Martini and garnish with cocktail onions.  

How to make the perfect Dirty Martini

Dirty Martini garnished with olives

Here’s our fail-proof recipe for the best Dirty Martini you’ll ever make.  



  1. Add ice to a cocktail shaker 
  2. Add the vodka, vermouth, and olive brine, then shake for 30 seconds 
  3. Strain into a chilled Martini glass  
  4. Garnish with skewered olives 

Top tips for the best Dirty Martini: 

  • Serve it shaken to incorporate the brine into the drink properly.  
  • Use gourmet olives for an unexpected twist. Try your Dirty Martini with blue cheese stuffed olives or jalapeño olives. 
  • Chill your glasses to keep your cocktail cooler for longer. 
  • Keep your olive jar in the fridge, as the coolness of this essential ingredient makes for a smoother drink.  

Other types of dirty cocktails

Front shot of two Dirty Pineapple Margaritas garnished with jalapeno, lime and pinapple

It’s not just the Martini that can be dirtied. There are loads of other drink options that you can play around with.  

These are a few of our favourites:

  • Dirty Mojito: Use gold, spiced or dark rum for a fun twist and completely different taste to the classic.  
  • Dirty Margarita: Make a Classic Margarita, but add a spicy kick with sliced jalapeños, jalapeño brine, and chilli salt for the rim.  
  • Dirty Bloody Mary: There are a few options you can try. Add pitted olives and olive brine into your Bloody Mary mix and garnish with bacon, celery, jalapeños, and celery. Use tequila instead of vodka, and serve it in a salt-rimmed glass. Or add clam juice to the mix for a little extra umami magic.   
  • Dirty 50/50: Made with equal parts gin and vermouth, a splash of olive brine, and an olive skewer to garnish


A dirty cocktail is when you take a classic and add a savoury twist. The most famous example is the Dirty Martini. 

A Dirty Martini adds olive brine. A Dry Martini uses very little vermouth and is usually very gin or vodka forward.  

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