If nothing else, the Dirty Martini is a balancing act. A proper Dirty lets the gin botanicals shine through. It’s enhanced by just enough salty brine to make the drink savory, but not enough to make you feel like you swallowed ocean water. It’s assertive, down to earth and the perfect cocktail hour drink—unless you use the wrong gin. The wrong bottle will throw everything out of whack and leave you will scratching your head while staring at a cloudy mess of a cocktail. Make it right and keep the balance. These are the five best gins to use for a Dirty Martini.
Gordon’s is bold enough to hold its own against the brine. It’s also affordable—something that you can appreciate if you’ve ever disguised the flavors of an expensive gin in a Dirty Martini. This straightforward London Dry sells for less than $15, and the spirit’s juniper will sing in perfect harmony with the dirtiest olive brine.
Navy strength gin doesn’t like to be pushed around, and Four Pillars is no exception. Bright lime, ginger and turmeric play nice with salty olives, and the fortified strength ensures that it won’t be lost, even if you spill a little extra brine into the mix. But sip with caution—at 58.8 percent alcohol, it’s best to stick to just one pre-dinner Dirty Martini. Don’t forget to eat the cocktail-soaked olives while you sip.
For a Dirty Martini With Nuance: Plymouth Gin ($32)
Plymouth Gin has been made with the same seven-botanical recipe since 1793. You know how the saying goes: If it ain’t broke, put it in a Dirty Martini (or something like that). The spirit has a reputation for mixing smooth, lightly sweet and citrusy Martinis, but its piney juniper, angelica root and cardamom also make it earthy enough to get down with some brine.
For Hardcore Juniper Lovers: Sipsmith V.J.O.P. ($50)
Despite what people who drink their Dirty Martinis with vodka may prefer, brine is a better compliment than leading flavor. Big juniper notes are highlighted by the salt, creating that oh-so-important balance. And when it comes to the most junipery of juniper-forward gins, there’s nothing like Sipsmith V.J.O.P. The letters stand for “Very Junipery Over Proof,” and it doesn’t disappoint—especially in a Dirty (or even filthy) Martini.
For a Classics Lover: Boodles Gin ($23)
Boodles delivers on the classic British gin notes without any bells and whistles. It lacks citrus botanicals but compensates with balanced juniper, sage and rosemary. The spirit provides an easy and clean Martini that will gladly accommodate a touch of olive brine.