15 Appetizers That Pair Nicely With Martinis

The classic martini remains one of the most enduring cocktails of all time. Though trendy drinks like the Negroni, an Aperol spritz, and tiki drinks enjoy their moment in the sun, the restrained sophistication of a martini will never disappear from a bartender's toolkit.

Made with either gin or vodka, a varying amount of dry vermouth, garnished with a twist of lemon or a spear of olives (or both), then stirred (don't listen to 007) until ice cold, the martini's flavor palette makes it one of the sole cocktails where food pairings merge with the profile of the cocktail.

But with such a balanced drink, figuring out which foods sit well next to your martini glass can be tricky. Pick a dish with too much personality, and the cocktail will lack any presence. Similarly, if a dish is overtly sweet, a martini could taste bitter by comparison. To combat bad food bedfellows, we've compiled a shortlist of appetizers you can order or prepare for the next time you plan on sipping a martini so you have something in your stomach to soak up the cocktail's surprising stiffness.

While we defer to gin-based martinis because of their botanical dimension, we also consider vodka martini's when pairing flavors. Keep in mind the difference in taste between a London dry gin, which has a more scaled-back array of botanicals, to an outwardly juniper-laden Old Tom. Both drinks are equally sippable, but remembering the profile of your specific gins will avoid a flavor clash.

Tuna tonnato

A simple spread made from canned tuna and mayonnaise, tuna tonnato plays off a dirty martini's savory, briny notes and a twisted martini's citrusy zest. The classic Italian sauce originating from the Piedmont region, tonnato traditionally accompanies meat such as veal or pork; however, the creamy sauce can shine on its own as well. Like a martini, the ingredients of tonnato probably already exist in your kitchen cupboards, making it an appetizer we can whip up at the last minute to impress unexpected guests.

Keeping a small homemade jar of tuna tonnato handy will brighten up a martini night from home; serve the sauce on crackers, atop crostini, or even along the hollow underside of a celery stick. Capers and other pickled accouterments bring the super savory dish to life, along with a healthy amount of fresh lemon juice.  A perfectly stirred martini cleanses the palette for more umami-driven bites and compliments the components of the classic sauce.

Crab cakes

We're ready for crab cakes to make their 2023 comeback, and matching their saltiness with the slick botanical lick of our favorite gin could elevate the fritter to the next level. A clever way to stretch crabmeat or utilize leftover crab, crab cakes remain a staple of steakhouses and seafood-centric brunch spots everywhere. Still, their origins point back to Indigenous communities as far back as the 16th century and could be one of the first dishes colonial settlers appropriated from Indigenous culture.

Today's panfried, lemony crab cakes match the profile of a martini adorned with a twist or an olive and remain one of the luxury starter dishes of our dreams. Though we often encounter crab cakes on a brunch menu (too early for a martini), we look for the crabby discs on cocktail bar menus and far prefer it to arancini, or fried risotto ball. Fatty, fried foods generally yearn for a clean, crisp palette cleanser, and seafood dishes should be matched with beverages that won't disrupt the delicate flavor profile (a margarita or a whiskey drink would both be too overpowering), making an ice-cold martini a near perfect match.

Onion rings

A step up from a basket of french fries, battered onion rings are worth the extra steps to achieve greatness, especially if they accompany a luxurious martini to wash down their salty crunch. Perhaps even more matched with a martini's step-sibling, a Gibson, a dirty martini that swaps out olives for pickled pearl onions, making the cocktail rhyme with the notes of fried allium.

When indulging in fried foods, we like to pair the fatty plates with a drink either with carbonation that bubbles can reset our palates or, in the case of a martini, are stiff enough to stand up to the weighty mouthfeel of oil-soaked foods. We'd also extend this pairing note to an eye-catching blooming onion, fried pickled onions, or melted versions of the intense aromatic.

Tabouli salad

So many Arabic appetizers could sit swimmingly with a martini of either variation — dolmas (or grape leaves), a mezze platter, and kibbeh, to name a few, are welcome sidekicks to the only cocktail we'd ever order alongside an entire meal. Perhaps the kiss of the Mediterranean Sea inspires the region's breezy, sunny cooking style, ideal for sipping a cold cocktail alongside.

But the leader of the pack, if we plan on sipping a martini, has to be a tabouli salad; packed with parsley and studded with bulgar wheat and chopped tomatoes, a classic plate of tabouli has everything it takes to interplay with the tasting notes of a martini. Both herbaceous and acidic (from lemon juice), whatever your martini order is, tabouli will take you to the finish line. When pairing drinks with cold salads, we always like to remember the bite of freshness our beverage contains; while a glass of dry white wine could be perfect, the yeasty heft of a dark beer would be off-putting. A martini's briskness makes the cocktail one of the only drinks that are profile allowing it to meld with the tasting notes of greens and salads easily. For a tabouli salad, we'd even consider infusing a dry gin with tomato or parsley for an extra personal touch.

Steak tartare

Sometimes a lavish cocktail needs to be met with an equally elegant dish. We look to an expertly prepared steak tartare for those special occasions to match our chic, clear drink. Famously made of high-quality, chopped red meat, steak tartare's uncooked steak sings along with the notes of a classic martini. Like the handcrafted attention paid to a well-made martini, a deceptively simple tartare also asks its preparer to hand-chop steak for the perfect consistency.

Set with an array of accouterments such as raw egg, aioli, capers, cornichons, and more, the profile of tremendous tartare attempts to balance fatty elements with bright, acidic notes. Perhaps a little more friendly with an olive martini in hand, steak tartare's upscale vibe deserves a top-shelf base spirit like Martin Miller or Hendricks.

Sautéed mushrooms

Sautéed mushrooms, another savory dish ideal for nibbling on while enjoying a classic martini, can counteract the cocktail's brine and citrus with earthy notes and textural heft. No matter the mushroom, a sauce incorporating white wine, marsala, or vermouth will work harmoniously with a martini's vermouth element. At the same time, the juxtaposition of bright/acidic lemon or olive will cause a pleasurable tension between the pairing.

While the majority of foods we'd think to couple with an ice-cold martini match the drink's chilly temperature, perfectly sautéed mushrooms bring a comforting warmth to the experience of imbibing on the king of cocktails. A pairing we ideally indulge in during the winter months, the juxtaposition of a chilled drink and warm, melted mushrooms make for a comforting duo.

One of the only dishes we prefer is a vodka martini over a gin-based cocktail; vodka's intentional lack of personality lends itself to a buttery, perhaps garlic-laden dish and would here allow the mushrooms to assume center stage.


Bruschetta, a dish every home cook should be qualified to throw together, meets an olive-adorned martini with (hopefully) high-quality olive oil and marries the two pitted fruit items in harmony. Somewhere in between a classic appetizer and a '90s throwback dish, bruschetta also pairs with a martini's ambiance.

Crunchy toasted baguettes topped with ingredients like cheese, herbs, tomatoes, and other seasonal vegetables tackle the task of filling a drinker's stomach with something hearty as they toss back a martini or two. And, like the cocktail bruschetta works to cohere with, the dish itself is comprised of simple, quality components that can be tossed together and completed quickly. Our pick for an at-home appetizer, we look to a classic, tomato-based bruschetta when we know we'll also be stirring up martinis.

Steak bites

When an entire steak dinner is out of the question, we don't see any harm in ordering a plate of sultry steak bites to nibble on while savoring a martini. Though we concede that a glass of red wine sits better with an entire cut of steak, we like how the bite-size version of the beef dish interplays with each sip of our cocktail.

Unlike a Manhattan or Negroni, a martini omits overly sweet flavors from a sweet (or red) vermouth and the bitter irruptions of bitter aperitifs like Campari, making the dry-vermouth and gin (or vodka) drink a happy bedfellow with a tender nibble of cooked beef. Especially great if garlic exists in the steak pan, the spicy allium interacts with a dirty martini's savory flavor.

Wedge salad

A salad on the verge of a comeback, the iceberg wedge, collaborates with the icy bite of a supremely stirred martini without taking over the palette. Green without tasting fibrous, iceberg lettuce offers a perfect foundation to build a martini-accompanied salad. Though lacking the vitamins behind a heftier green such as kale, an iceberg salad's high water content results in a crunch worthy of pairing with a gin drink.

Salty notes from chopped bacon and sweet, earthy undertones from cherry tomatoes make a summertime wedge a martini's drinking buddy. Almost always served with a creamy dressing (like blue cheese or ranch), a martini's crispness can cut through rich sauce and reset its drinker's palate with every quaff. Plus, since martinis are notoriously boozy, a wedge salad offers substantiality, so the sipper can avoid succumbing to the sneakily strong cocktail's potency.


This is somewhat of a no-brainer, but a plate of olives in oil makes a foolproof snack if you're the kind of martini drinker who can't get your drink dirty enough. But even if you're matching your martini with a twist, an antipasto of olives also sings in tune with a lemon-laden martini. Though a little cumbersome if pitted, olives can space out your martini sips without interfering with the drink's flavor.

Like the cocktail's components, we always look for high-quality olives like a good, bright green, Castelvetrano when we're planning on enjoying the pitted treat alongside a stiff drink. A flawless companion for any person's fridge, a high-caliber jar of olives elevates a homemade cocktail to a festive solo date indoors, and the brine inside a good jar of olives elevates a dirty martini to a restaurant-level cocktail.


One of the classiest of all martini snacks, a well-curated crudités platter, both looks opulent and offers an opportunity to consume a daily dose of vitamin-rich vegetables. We've seen a rise in restaurant crudités plates in the past couple of years, but we love to showcase the gems of our local farmer's market all at once in a colorful crudité.

Set atop a bed of crushed ice, a well-plated crudités mirrors the icy chill of a perfectly stirred martini and plays off the zesty olive or lemon garnishing the cocktail. We like the watery crunch of celery, the peppery kiss of sliced radish, and the sweet density of a carrot stick matched with a sour cream dip to interplay with the botanical notes of a classic martini. A dish we could play with any martini order we're craving, depending on the vegetables chosen and the gin (or vodka) selected for your cocktail, a well-planned crudités plate will magnify the botanicals of your base spirit throughout your snacking. 

Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs, a classic potluck/picnic appetizer also walk in rhythm with the notes of a martini. Like so many other items we like while holding our cocktail glass full of gin and vermouth, the deviled egg's chilled temperature lends itself to a happy marriage alongside a martini. Like many other martini food pairings, a deviled egg's handheld size sits nicely next to a martini glass.

A dish comprised mostly of fatty ingredients such as egg yolk, and mayonnaise, deviled eggs need a palate cleanser between bites. Not for anyone who goes overboard on the olive brine inside their martini order, since the double smack of salt might overwhelm and ultimately exhaust the palette, we prefer a twist when enjoying these eggy wonders. The commanding flavor of a martini resets the tongue to grab another yolky wonder. As an extra pairing note, we'd suggest tracking down or cooking up a platter of pickled deviled eggs to swing in tempo with a dirty martini.

Stuffed celery

We don't know why we don't see cheese-stuffed celery on more steakhouse menus. Our favorite stalks of stuffed celery will always come out of Hollywood's legendary Musso and Frank's kitchen. Still, the restaurant also inspired us to start riffing on the crunchy dish within our kitchen.

Also the home of our favorite martini of all time, Musso's has been serving its stuffed celery for over a hundred years alongside stiff (and heavily poured) martinis. For those who ask for a blue cheese stuffed olive inside their dirty martini, we suggest taking a plate of stuffed celery for a whirl in place of your usual order. Crisp but tethered with fatty textures, a martini marries the water content of a celery stalk and contrasts the creamy notes with a sharp mouthfeel.


One of nature's most perfect foods, the oyster, obviously weds a well-made martini. Both briny and often served with expressed lemons, oysters and martinis are beloved by those who seek simple, refined flavors led by the burst of salinity. Though raw oysters on the half-shell remain our go-to after shucking a dozen or so of the bivalve, we also would sip a martini aside oyster shooters or even a baked Rockefeller.

We suggest not being scared of a 50/50 martini or a martini equally weighted by the spirit (gin or vodka) and vermouth. Not only will it lower the alcohol content of the cocktail substantially, but the drink's extra ounce of vermouth also sits nicely next to oysters, which are classically paired with white wine, like a Muscadet. Both are high in salinity and associated with elegance, a martini may be the only classic cocktail that won't intrude on the singular flavor of the oceanic snack.

Shrimp cocktail

Finally, the pinnacle of cocktails must be met with the apex of all appetizers — the shrimp cocktail. A classic Californian dish that likely has roots in Mexico, shrimp cocktails can be found today at nearly every upscale steakhouse in America. While we certainly pluck shrimp from an ice glass more often in the booth of an upscale restaurant, we consider the chilled seafood appetizer a staple recipe we prepare when hosting snack nights or attending potlucks.

Poached shrimp or prawns paired with a horseradish spiced cocktail sauce and lemon, not only do the tones of a shrimp cocktail work in unison with a martini but the appetizer and cocktail are often served in the same stemware. Both deceptively simple but in need of an expert hand, the martini compliments the crustacean served over ice by lending a floral back note to the peppery dish. We so often order the duo together we now consider a prawn cocktail and a martini an obligatory coupling for any steakhouse night out.