6 Places in L.A. to Get a Dirty Martini That Doesn’t Suck

You may not have asked for it, but it’s back
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You didn’t think you wanted it to come back but after the resurrection of the Amaretto Sour, the White Russian, and even the Long Island Iced Tea it was bound to happen: the return of the Dirty Martini. Yes, the cocktail, which has been regarded by bartenders with almost as much disdain as the vodka Redbull, is now populating some of the best bars in L.A.

Whether it’s a response to giving guests what they want but on the bartender’s terms or rising to the challenge of making a bad drink good, here’s where you can get dirty again.

Melrose Umbrella Co.’s Romeo & Mignonette

Melrose Umbrella Co.'s Romeo & Mignonette
Melrose Umbrella Co.’s Romeo & Mignonette

Photograph by Caroline on Crack

Melrose Umbrella Co. program director David Purcell says he will never scoff at any cocktail or drink ordered. “Why would anyone fight the opportunity to give a guest what they want?” he says. “I feel like the drinks resurgence is coming from this place, where people behind the bar just want to give people what they ask for in the best fashion that they can.” And he’s very proud of his Dirty Martini variation, the Romeo & Mignonette. Inspired by his favorite pastime of sipping Fifty-Fiftys while slurping a dozen oysters, he created for his cocktail a “mignonette treatment” with a blend of Dolin Dry and Blanc vermouths, a blend of Banyuls and balsamic vinegars, green onions, and sea salt and cracked black pepper seasoning. “The drink is savory and light, with bright green notes and a delicate spice and has an amazing texture that gives all the flavors full length in a sip.”

Belcampo Meat Co. Santa Monica’s The Dirty Martini
Since the traditional cocktail is made with olive juice and then shaken with ice, both the booze and the olive flavor are diminished. So barman Josh Goldman’s fix is to cold infuse vodka with olives and salt so you get the olive flavor and your booze is properly diluted. The Belcampo Dirty Martini—Aylesbury Duck vodka with olive brine sprayed with an atomizer and served with a side of olives—comes with a “dirty” tea bag filled with olives and salt to make it as filthy as you want it. The result is all the flavors of a Dirty Martini but not as diluted and with better ingredients.

Viviane’s Dirty Martini

Viviane's Dirty Martini
Viviane’s Dirty Martini

Photograph courtesy of Viviane

Ryan Wainwright has made it his mission to improve “bad” cocktails. It’s become his thing in fact, from Cosmopolitans to Long Islands. And now he also makes one of the best Dirty Martinis, so flavorful and well-balanced. After a lot of trial and error in search of the right olives to infuse Grey Goose with, Wainwright discovered that the Kalamata olives’ bold flavor brought something special to the cocktail. “The brightness was really beautiful and we knew that we hit something amazing,” he says. And it may be dirty but thanks to its lack of olive brine, it’s the smoothest Dirty Martini you’ve ever tasted. “It’s a fun one, and that’s what I love about Viviane. It is a chance to play with those modern ‘classics’ and really make them shine,” he says.

Sotto’s I’ll Live

Sotto's I'll Live
Sotto’s I’ll Live

Photograph courtesy of Sotto

Ever since Sotto opened, customers had been asking for a Dirty Martini assuming that the Italian restaurant would have olives at the bar. “For so long at Sotto we never offered a Dirty Martini because we wanted to stay true to the pre-Prohibition theme on classics and also to get people to get out of their comfort zone so they could try something different,” says bartender Brynn Smith. But now she has finally acquiesced, compromising with a mashup of a Dirty Martini and a Gibson. For the “I’ll Live” (her concession to finally serving it), Smith makes her own brine combining Castrevaltrano olive juice and the pearl onion vinegar brine that the kitchen uses to pickle vegetables. Mixed with vodka and Dolin dry vermouth, it makes for a balanced, savory drink.

Birch’s #003

Birch's #003: gin, sake, umeshu, umeboshe pickled plums
Birch’s #003: gin, sake, umeshu, umeboshe pickled plums

Photograph by Caroline on Crack

The Dirty Martini was the first cocktail that bartender Gabriella Mlynarczyk fell in love with so when she created the “Martini Project” of martini variations for Birch, she naturally had to include her version of the dirty. “I was playing with a Pickletini idea awhile back but rather than use European-style pickles I wanted to make something using Japanese ingredients,” she says. The #003 flavors are more complex than both a Dirty Martini and Pickletini, making it the perfect aperitif before a seafood dinner.

Spare Room’s Salt & Vinegar Martini

Spare Room
Spare Room’s Salt & Vinegar Martini

Photograph by Caroline on Crack

“I’m going to take any classic and really blow it out. Take it my way and a step ahead,” bartender Yael Vengroff had said when she debuted her Salt & Vinegar Martini. A mix of potato vodka, dry vermouth, pickle brine, and celery shrub, it makes for a super savory and refreshing Dirty variation. Thankfully it’s served with a side of dill potato chips to help you stop salivating.

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