the classic dirty martini | simple ingredients, minimal effort, complex results

I really wish life worked out more like the title of this blog post: simple ingredients, minimal effort, with complex results. Rarely does it ever turn out just like that, right? Lately, it’s been more like this: empty cupboards, requiring multiple hours to source the necessary ingredients with beyond maximum effort. Super-human effort. Effort that’s squeezed from the last remaining drop of life in my blood, with lots of carnage, unmet needs, unfulfilled requests, forgotten emails, and a few starved relationships left in the wake. And multiple martinis along the way. Let’s not forget those.

It’s not been a pretty scene.

There is, however, a warm, bright, beckoning light at the end of the tunnel. I cannot wait to share more about all of the exciting changes with you very soon. As soon as I get a little more sleep, tie up some flailing loose ends, and … finish packing up my life here in Denver. There’s a big move on the horizon. One that I’m not quite ready for, but I have wished to embark upon for a long time.


If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.

— Nora Roberts


There are copious examples of drinks out there that require contemplation and examination. The barrel-aged Negronis, the port barrel-seasoned stouts, the bourbon barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignons, the late-harvest and slow-fermented orange wines. You know the like.

I’ve been craving and consuming more simple and straight-forward sips. Perhaps it’s a reflection of how I wish I were feeling: more centered, simple, and clean. Yes, I do take showers on the regular. That’s not what I mean by “clean.” I’ve been enjoying a classic, easy-to-drink Pilsner or a clean, crisp Champagne or an ounce or two of my favorite bourbon on the rocks. A drink that lets me wander toward my own thoughts, without having to dissect its complexities.

There’s magic in a well-made martini.

I’m not here to side with “team vodka” or “team gin” and fight about it. {I am on “team gin”, by the way, for the record, however.} This cocktail can be made with either spirit, but I do advocate using gin in this classic cocktail’s creation.

Gin is my jam, and I fully believe it yields a more complex and interesting martini. Even when mixed with olive juice for a dirty martini. If you’ve never given gin a go in a martini, now is the time. I recently received a bottle of premium dirty martini juice from the folks at Ancient Olive Trees and made a couple of iterations on the classic preparation. I hadn’t had a good, dirty martini in well over ten years. My friend, Angie, and I would hit up Darcy’s Irish Pub here in the DTC and enjoy a couple after a long double at work. Since then, we have both changed jobs and added to our families, and, over time, the martini dates have evolved into coffee dates.

I think we’re both due for a serious martini date sometime soon. Get back with me on that, Angie. 😉

You already know that quality spirits yield a better cocktail, so follow that same guideline with your garnishes. It’s never worth the shortcut. I love using fresh Cerignola, Kalamata, or Castelvetrano olives for my garnishes. Stuffing them with something delicious adds even more excitement to the cocktail.

For this post, I stuffed Castelvetrano olives with pickled garlic cloves, quick-pickled jalapeño pepper slices, and soft blue cheese. I picked up the pickled garlic cloves at Whole Foods and grabbed a few jalapeño peppers to quick-pickle at the house. I’ll share the recipe for the jalapeños in the notes for the cocktail recipe.


The same rule for quality applies to mixers, as well. I was seriously impressed with Ancient Olive Trees Dirty Martini Juice. The company sources its olives from California and applies a “tree-to-table” approach that you can taste. Their premium juice is barrel-aged and then triple-filtered, yielding a fresh, crisp, quality dirty martini juice.

I know I lot of bartenders opt out of the dry vermouth portion of a dirty gin martini. I recommend keeping it in the equation. This particular ratio of ingredients yields a complex and rich amalgam that’s incredibly smooth and satisfying. It’s the perfect, feisty match of salty, herbaceous, and aromatic.

Bottoms up!


classic dirty martini


  1. In a mixing glass, combine the gin, dry vermouth, and olive juice.
  2. Add ice and stir for at least 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into chilled martini glasses or coupes.
  4. Garnish with a Castelvetrano olive, plain or stuffed with blue cheese, pickled jalapeño, or garlic clove.
  • For a dirtier version, opt for 3/4 to 1 ounce olive juice. Play around with the ratios. I prefer the recipe above. It’s balanced, super smooth, complex, and easy to drink.
  • Pair this cocktail with oysters and garnish with a simple squeeze of lemon or some freshly made Parmesan crisps.
  • If you don’t have dry vermouth on hand, modify the recipe to include 3 ounces of gin and 3/4 ounce olive juice.
  • To make the quick-pickled jalapeño peppers, mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar with a pinch of sea salt and 1/2 tablespoon cane sugar. Slice up two jalapeño peppers and toss them into the mixture, including the seeds. Let the mixture sit for two hours, tossing occasionally, and store in the refrigerator.

What are your thoughts on dirty martinis? Love them? Hate them? Are you a proponent of dry vermouth, or do you go with straight gin and {olive} juice? Do you shake or stir?

I recommend pairing a good dirty martini after a long day of garden cleanup. That’s what should have happened this afternoon, but I didn’t quite get around to it. I did put a good thought into cleaning up, however. I’ll champion the wise words of Derek Zoolander, “Sometimes just thinking about it was the most rewarding experience of my whole life.” 😜

We are madly fixing up our house here on Holly Street, so that we can put it on the market in early April. We’re getting ready for a big move over the mountains out to the western slope of Colorado in the next few weeks. I’ll write more about the next steps and the big vision over the next few years. It’s a crazy dream, but I’m up for it. I think. Until I have it figured out, I’ll have another one of these, please.

XO,

Jayme

A special thanks to Ancient Olive Trees for sponsoring this post and deliciously powering my move to the western slope of Colorado! As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.

You can follow AOT on their website, ancientolivetrees.com, and via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

An extra special thanks to my friend, Amanda Larson, who gifted me these beautiful cocktail glasses from C+B this past Christmas. They’re my new favorite, and you’ll always be an old favorite of mine, Amanda. XO!

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Jayme Henderson

I am a sommelier-turned-farmer, who recently moved to Colorado's Western Slope to become a full-time grower of grapes and maker of wine. My husband, Steve, and I own and live on a vineyard, where we craft high-elevation white wine and rosé under our label, The Storm Cellar. I enjoy freelance writing and photography, and I am currently the cocktail columnist for Colorado's Spoke+Blossom magazine. I love playing with our two cats, gardening, mixing drinks, finding (and sipping!) great sparkling wine, cooking, playing the piano, and hiking.

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25 Comments

  1. Reply

    Angie

    March 16, 2017

    I saw this post title pop up in my email and knew I had to drop everything to read it! You know my love of gin, and I still stick with the blue cheese stuffed much to my bartender’s (Chris) dismay. I enjoy just the tiniest amount of olive juice mixed in, mostly just the gin. Mmmmmm

    Let’s get that martini date arranged. ASAP.

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      March 16, 2017

      Im so happy you checked your email and saw this, Angie! I’m a sucker, obviously, for the blue cheese olives, myself. Chris is missing out, lol. We should definitely have a date, especially before we move! Every time I think of dirty martinis, you come to mind. I’d settle for a Duffy’s and coffee date, though, too!! XO!

  2. Reply

    Julia

    March 16, 2017

    Looking forward to hearing what your move is all about! And, a dirty [gin] martini [three olives, please] is one of my favorites drinks from back in the day. I might have to have one tomorrow night!

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      March 16, 2017

      Thanks so much, Julia! My fiancé and I have been planning this move for almost a year. We are going from the hectic city to the quiet country, and we’re trading our suits for overalls and a tractor. I’ve never been both this excited and this scared in my entire life. Wish I could join you for a cocktail!!

      • Julia

        March 17, 2017

        Wow, congrats!! I can’t wait to hear all about your new life! It sounds so amazing!

  3. Reply

    daryleone

    March 16, 2017

    There is nothing like a classic 5-to-1 gin martini! I use the juice from good black olives to obscure the shimmering clarity of that classic martini. Yes, in this case, shaking is acceptable. A couple of black olives with a snippet of pimiento between them makes a perfect garnish.

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      March 16, 2017

      Totally agree with you on the acceptability of shaking. Black olives with pimiento sounds perfect and would be so eye-catching! It’s only a little after 10:00, but I’m already wanting to scout out some good black olives and make this happen. Cheers! 💥

  4. Reply

    daryleone

    March 16, 2017

    So Jayme, am I reading that you and your fiance are becoming homesteaders?

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      March 17, 2017

      YES!!! We are moving out to the western slope of Colorado to run a vineyard and live off the land. Crazy change of pace and something we have always wanted to do. We are actually out there today and learning about cisterns.

      • daryleone

        March 17, 2017

        I suppose if the grapes don’t do well there are other cash crops that can be grown in them there hills! I’ll be looking for your label in a few years.

      • Jayme Henderson

        March 17, 2017

        Hehehe … this particular area out here has a lot of those “other cash crops” a’growin’. Gotta have a good backup plan. 😜 And yes, look out for it. It will be “The Storm Cellar.”

  5. Reply

    Joan Steese

    March 16, 2017

    I wish I was there to help with some of the “fixing up” on Holly Street. But, hopefully you can take a break on the 19th to celebrate your birthday!!! Love you lots! Mom Steese

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      March 16, 2017

      We wish you were here, too!!! But you seriously don’t want to be fixing up anything here. It is a mess uncovering all the oddities in an old house. We would take you out to Paonia with us to celebrate, instead! Thank you for the birthday wishes! MUCH LOVE!!

  6. Reply

    davidoldham

    March 18, 2017

    Reblogged this on maisysabredavid.

  7. Reply

    clubschadenfreude

    March 19, 2017

    lovely pictures. I’ve made something the same, with the brine from pickle jalapenos and called it the Burning Sensation.

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      March 19, 2017

      Love the name you gave it!! I hadn’t gone that far, but I do call the quick-pickled things, “quickles.” 😜 What do make with the brine?

      • clubschadenfreude

        March 20, 2017

        I’ll have to admit that my husband came up with that name. I’m not sure what you are asking in the question. It seems to be missing a word or two.

  8. Reply

    Jayme Henderson

    March 20, 2017

    I hadn’t gone that far as to give it a name, but I do call anything that I quick-pickle, “quickles.” I was asking what exactly you made from the pickled jalapeño brine. Sorry if it was a little confusing! I wanted to know what was in the “Burning Sensation.” 😀

  9. Reply

    appeasingafoodgeek

    March 21, 2017

    Jayme, you completely inspired me to martini it up this weekend! I even went for the dill pickle version of a dirty martini which was surprisingly really good. Also, I’m exclusively a gin martini girl–never vodka. I had a professor in college that used to say “the only person who orders a vodka martini is an alcoholic. Always order gin” which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a place to draw the line, but I guess it spoke to me! 😉 Love the photos in this post by the way! xoxo

  10. Reply

    Gail

    March 26, 2017

    Love to read your posts; they’re so personal. They make me feel like you’re talking only to me! The photos are beautiful, as always. Looking forward to hearing about the big move to the western slope!

  11. Reply

    kcurnes

    March 27, 2017

    Oh my gosh how I love a good dirty martini (its really the only way I drink them) you know I’m more of a tequila gal. 🙂 Can’t wait to hear more about your new adventure!

  12. Reply

    Emily Ross-Johnson

    April 3, 2017

    OMG, did you sneak some oysters in that one shot? I heart this whole drink!!

  13. Reply

    hocuspocus13

    April 11, 2017

    Reblogged this on hocuspocus13 and commented:
    jinxx🌸xoxo

  14. Reply

    Tooting Hustle

    May 24, 2017

    The filters on your photos, for a start, are amazing. I think it works really well and I’d love to get to know how you managed it. Also the cocktail looks divine, I simply must try to make it… Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    If you have time, please check out my latest post about Brick &Liquor Cocktail bar – https://tootinghustle.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/brick-and-liquor-in-review/ and let me know what you think!

    Happy blogging! x

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      December 3, 2017

      Thank you so much for the compliment! I completely missed your comment, somehow, within the craziness of my summer. So sorry! I just read your post about your visit to Brick & Liquor, and I see you tried a Clover Club for the first time. That’s one of my favorite cocktails, as well. And a rosemary Negroni? I think I’ll have to try a riff on that. I love almost all iterations of that beloved cocktail. CHEERS and happy blogging to you, as well!

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