Why The Fanciest Dirty Martinis Are Leaning Away From Olive Brine

Martinis have long had a reputation for being sophisticated and fancy. It's the drink of choice for James Bond, who prefers his shaken, not stirred (though stirred is really the only way to go to avoid over-diluting the drink). Dirty martinis, despite their name, are no different (James Bond even swapped out his usual Vesper martini for a dirty one in 2015's "Spectre," while President Franklin D. Roosevelt was said to have added a dash of olive brine to his martinis), and typically include the addition of olive brine — anywhere from a splash to nearly half the cocktail, depending on how dirty you like your martini to be — to a base of gin or vodka and a bit of vermouth, and garnished with a few olives.

The addition of olive brine makes logical sense when you're using all those olives as a garnish, and may have been how dirty martinis originated back in 1901 in New York. Well, these days, dirty martinis are getting a fancier treatment from many bartenders and drinkers from around the country. Their secret? Replacing the olive brine with different alternatives, without sacrificing the signature salty flavor.

Alternatives for olive brine in a dirty martini

One option for an olive-less brine is to combine a small amount of lactic acid with water, an alternative developed by Brooklyn's Fort Defiance bar. Chicago beverage director Lance Bowman uses a combination of an umami tincture, allium tincture, and turmeric pickled brine, in his martinis while San Francisco's Wildhawk bar uses a sesame brine with saltwater, toasted sesames, and apple cider vinegar, explains Punch.

Alex Guarnaschelli punches up her martinis with an unconventional caper brine, while Esquire recommends swapping out olive brine and olives with caperberry brine and caperberries, which offers a milder and less salty flavor profile than capers. Rachel Ray's husband, John Cusimano, has a recipe that uses pickle juice and cocktail onion brine for extra briny goodness. Other olive-less brine alternatives include banana pepper brine, dill pickle brine, spicy pickle brine, pickled jalapeno brine, and pickled okra brine.

Even if you opt to replace the olive brine with an alternative, don't forget to garnish your dirty martini with a few olives, like the bright and buttery Castelvetranos, the large and meaty Cerignolos, or a stuffed Queen or Manzanilla. You can also add an extra savory punch by rimming the glass of your dirty martini with some everything bagel spice or rinsing your dirty martini glass with scotch for more flavor.