Why is the sweet & dirty Gibson martini an obscure cocktail?
Because I made it up!
Even if I didn’t, I have yet to ever find a bartender who knows how to make it without me dictating the ingredients.
Go ahead and Google it. The first and only sweet and dirty martini recipe will be from Girl + Fire, a blog I wrote. Hopefully, this one displaces it!
In celebration of our national elections here in the US of A, let’s all have us a twist on the classic cocktail.
What is a Martini?
Purists (aka, the cocktail police) will tell you that a true martini is only made with dry vermouth and gin/vodka. But if that were true, then appletinis and chocolate martinis wouldn’t exist.
While it may be true that the classic martini is made that way, that doesn’t mean you’re limited by rules. A martini is a perfect cocktail because it can be precisely what you want it to be. The variations are as numerous as there are James Bond movies. They can be made dry, or dirty, or with all kinds of additives like pomegranate syrup—or none at all.
Martinis are made with a base clear liquor (vodka or gin, take your pick—I prefer gin) and some amount of dry vermouth, depending on how dry you like your drink. 6 parts gin/vodka to 1 part vermouth is a good starting point, but more gin/vodka and less vermouth = extra dry.
The drink itself is served in the iconic Y-shaped glass and can be garnished with a variety of things, very often olives or a simple lemon twist. A Gibson martini, on the other hand, is served with pickled cocktail onions.
The classic martini is pure clear alcohol. To make a martini “dirty’ is to add a little brine juice (from the olives or pickled onions), which both brings down the pure alcohol ratio and can impart a bit of color.
Take the dirty martini ingredients, and switch out the dry vermouth for sweet vermouth, and now you’re speaking my language. Sweet vermouth is a fortified Italian wine and used in other classic cocktails like Manhattans. It’s also not clear like its dry French cousin.
According to Food & Wine, the martini originated in the United States in the mid-19th century, and originally made with sweet vermouth. Sometime around the turn of the century, the sweet vermouth was replaced with dry vermouth and that’s what we’ve come to know now as a “classic martini.”
The Sweet & Dirty Martini
How did I even come up with this?
I was a young 20-something and had never made a martini, but they always sounded so sexy and mature. Knowing there were only 2 ingredients plus garnishes I figured it couldn’t be that hard to make (I’d watched enough James Bond). I was still living with my parents, so I was bound by the contents of their liquor cabinet. We always had/have gin on hand because my father’s go-to drink is a Tanqueray & tonic. At the time, I didn’t even know vodka could be used and even now rarely ever drink vodka anyway.
I took a martini shaker, filled it with ice, poured in some gin and…all we had was sweet vermouth. Being naive and not knowing much about alcohol, I figured it would be the same thing, right?
It didn’t taste that great.
So I added some of the olive juice in, shook it up, and…it tasted better.
It took a while, playing with the ratio of gin to vermouth, but I finally landed around a 6:1 recipe plus a dash of brine. I topped it with olives and that became my signature drink.
But once I learned what a Gibson martini was, I fell in love with pickled onions. So if and when I can, I prefer that.
The Sweet & Dirty Gibson Martini
- 6 parts gin
- 1 part sweet vermouth
- 3 Cocktail onions
- Brine from onions
- Fill a shaker with ice then add the gin and vermouth.
- Strain into a martini glass.
- Garnish with 3 onions and a dash of brine. Enjoy!