My relationship with martinis can be traced back to the bar at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, an iconic establishment that’s decorated like a French bordello. Desperate to be perceived as refined, I ordered a dirty martini with my shrimp cocktail and ribeye. Marco—the platonic ideal of an old-school bartender—asked if I wanted blue cheese olives. “Do you think that’s too much?” I replied. “I’m here to make drinks, not judgements,” he said. “Get the olives if you want them.”
I got the olives and tried to internalize Marco’s philosophy. I ordered filthy, briny martinis with gusto and with lots of olives, and enjoyed every one. Then, one day, I ordered a martini with “just a splash of brine.” That gave way to “regular martinis,” then “dry martinis.” My dry martini phase lasted a little too long, but I was in my 20s and wanted to be “taken seriously” by the vermouth-hating mixologists that were ubiquitous in the late 2000s. Once again, I was more concerned with judgments than drinks. (I got over it.)
I will admit I felt a surge of judgment when I first read about the dirty tequila martini. “That’s not a martini,” I mumbled. Half a minute later, I did not care. “Who gives a fuck?” I mumbled, this time more aggressively. I am out of fucks to give in general, and tequila and vermouth doesn’t sound bad at all. Peppery, citrusy blanco tequila can stand in for gin, no problem. Add some citrus bitters and a brine—I’d recommend a pickled green tomato one—to tie it all together and you have a cohesive, salty, kind of summery martini.
How to make a Dirty Tequila Martini
- 2 1/4 ounces blanco tequila
- 1/2 ounce brine of your choice (try green tomato)
- 1/4 ounce dry vermouth
- 2-3 dashes orange bitters
Add everything to a stirring glass filled with cracked ice and stir until very cold. Strain into a coupe and garnish with an olive and a strip of orange zest.
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