The Dirty Martini Dilemma


Spotted at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans last week: Dirty Sue dirty martini mix. It’s essentially olive juice in a bottle for those who like their martinis, well, less than clean. A half an ounce will make your martini dirty. An ounce or more renders it filthy. Dirty martinis are a touchy subject among bartenders, many of whom boast a love-hate relationship with the drink.

“I hate drinking them, but I love serving them!” says John Freeman, a bartender at Elizabeth in Nolita. “It’s great for us. For $14 you get four ounces of Ketel One [in a regular martini]. In a dirty martini, it’s two ounces of vodka and two ounces of olive juice. So, hey, thanks for helping us meet our liquor costs.”

For the most part, however, the dirty martini drinker is considered to have a false sense of sophistication, according to Freeman, who adds that “mostly children” order their martinis soiled. Case in point: the drink is usually vodka-based as opposed to the traditional gin.

“Generally, gin drinkers don’t tear their shit up like that. They have a more sophisticated palate,” says Freeman. “But, hey, I’m not here to judge. Some people like ketchup on their filet [mignon].”

So, does a patron lose cred when he or she bellies up to the bar for a dirty martini?

“Nah. I usually ask, ‘How dirty are we talking here? Playboy, Hustler, Club?’ It usually gets a laugh out of them.”