The 10 Best Vodkas for a Dirty Martini, According to Bartenders

Embracing the brine? These bottles will make your Dirty Martini shine.

<p>Food & Wine / THE NIKKA WHISKY DISTILLING Co., LTD / Chopin Imports Ltd. / Belvedere Vodka / Getty Images</p>

Food & Wine / THE NIKKA WHISKY DISTILLING Co., LTD / Chopin Imports Ltd. / Belvedere Vodka / Getty Images

If you’re making a classic Martini, your choice of vodka is important. Since the spirit is the star of every sip in the classic build, you want something neutral in profile and quality in craft. But when you’re drinking a Dirty Martini, there are a few other things to consider. Will the vodka play well with the brine, or will it get lost? Your vodka needs to be silky enough to shine on its own, but punchy enough to stand up to the briney punch of olive juice.

“It’s worth making a distinction for the Dirty Vodka Martini — it’s its own thing,” says Eva Suter, beverage director at Austin’s Bambino and L’Oca d’Oro. “Martini rules are different here.”

For many bartenders, it comes down to what the vodka is made from.

“Even though vodka is supposed to be flavorless, the base it’s made from makes a huge difference,” says Lara Creasy, beverage director for restaurant collective Rocket Farm Restaurants. “[Combining] the flavors of olive, extra dry vermouth, and salt [with] a rye-based vodka works so well,” she says. “Corn vodkas like Tito’s come across as sweeter and more round on the palate; vodkas made from grapes like Hangar One are more floral; potato vodkas like Chopin tend to be creamier with more vanilla notes.”

Ready to level up your Dirty Martini game? Here are 10 bartender-approved vodkas to help you put a shine on that brine.

Chopin Vodka

<p>Food & Wine / Chopin Imports Ltd.</p>

Food & Wine / Chopin Imports Ltd.

Of all the bartenders interviewed for this piece, an overwhelming number vouched for Chopin, a Polish vodka.

“I absolutely love to use Chopin Potato Vodka in my Martinis,” says Jessica Fitzmeyer, the bar manager at Swingers Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. “Since it’s made from potatoes, it has this earthy richness that makes it extremely unique.”

“It pairs very well with olive brine and a splash of dry vermouth,” says Zachary Dimmitt, director of food & beverage at Nick’s Quorum Bar & Supper Club in Omaha. “The salty flavor from the olive brine pairs perfectly with the earthy creamy tones of Chopin.”

“Its smooth, rich mouthfeel, combined with a slight savory touch makes it stand out, which is largely thanks to its potato base,” says Tyler Jones, a mixologist at Lotte Hotel Seattle. “I avoid vodkas made from corn as they tend to have an inherent sweetness that doesn’t complement the drink as well.”

Ben Lieppman, beverage director for RPM Restaurants in Chicago will always recommend a potato vodka for a Dirty Martini.

“Potato vodkas are generally distilled differently from most grain vodkas,” he says. “While marketing tends to praise repeated distillation that strips all flavor and gives you a clean taste, Potato vodkas are distilled only two or three times to preserve the creaminess and earthy flavors that drink smoothly in a vodka Martini and pairs so well with the brininess of olive juice.”

St. George Green Chile Vodka

<p>Food & Wine / St. George Spirits</p>

Food & Wine / St. George Spirits

“When I think Dirty Martini, I think savory,” says Phil Collins, beverage director for San Francisco-based restaurant group TableOne Hospitality. “I love bringing in more vegetal notes to really play up the salinity in the olive brine. My go-to has always been St George’s Green Chile Vodka.”

“It lends a touch of spice to a Martini while allowing beautiful green bell pepper notes to shine through,” says Collins. “The combination really activates the salivary glands in your back palate, making this vodka incredibly food-friendly across multiple different styles of cuisine.”

The California vodka is made with a combination of jalapeno, habanero, serrano, and bell pepper, which adds a vegetal twang to a Dirty Martini.

Ketel One

<p>Food & Wine / Diageo</p>

Food & Wine / Diageo

“When picking a vodka, a spirit that is praised for its neutrality, I’m always looking for texture,” says Christian Favier, beverage manager of The Ordinary in Charleston.

“The texture of a vodka can do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of how a cocktail feels. For a Dirty Martini, the vodka needs to have some heft so it can provide a strong backbone to the salty, umami olive brine,” says Favier. “For that purpose, I’m reaching for Ketel One. The weight of a high-quality pot still grain vodka makes a Dirty Martini unctuous, savory, and really well balanced.”

Sarah Elizabeth, lead bartender at Hôtel Swexan in Dallas, also swears by Ketel One.

“The smooth texture and high-quality craft make it ideal for enhancing the briny flavors of the olive brine while maintaining a balanced and delicious cocktail,” she says. She recommends perching some blue cheese-stuffed olives on top. “It elevates a Dirty Martini to a whole new level of sophistication and flavor.”

Belvedere Vodka

<p>Food & Wine / Belvedere Vodka</p>

Food & Wine / Belvedere Vodka

“Belvedere Vodka has always worked well for me in a Dirty Martini,” says Max Goldberg, beverage director at The Peninsula Beverly Hills. “The base of rye grain imparts a spicy flavor, similar to black pepper, to the vodka which, in turn, balances out the saltiness of the olive brine.”

Belvedere was introduced in 1993 as one of the first super-premium vodkas in the category, convincing American drinkers that vodka can also be sipped neat.. The Polish spirit is distilled four times so it’s smooth but still subtly spicy.

Nikka Coffey Vodka



Stanislav Harcinik of Mirror Bar in Bratislava, Slovakia, prefers Nikka’s Coffey Vodka because of the exacting quality of the Japanese-made gin.

“They have a very specific approach, where they separately distill the barley and corn bases then they precisely blend them to make a vodka with a full, smooth, milky-like texture,” he says. “Amplified with the notes of vermouth and a touch of saltiness from olive brine in a Dirty Martini, Nikka Coffey Vodka elevates the drink and brings an unexpected flavor experience.”

Nikka was founded by Masataka Taketsuru, a Japanese spirits expert who moved to Scotland to study traditional Scottish whisky production. He brought his learnings back to Japan and a century later, his legacy lies in Coffey-distilled whiskies, vodkas, and gins with a focus on Japanese ingredients.


<p>Food & Wine / Altieri </p>

Food & Wine / Altieri

Eduardo Guerrero, the lead bartender at Etéreo, Auberge Resorts Collection in Riviera Maya, Mexico, will either use Stolichnaya Elit, which he refers to as “a premium Russian vodka with a smooth and harmonious flavor,” or Altieri, a Mexican vodka made from blue Oaxacan corn and filtered through coconut charcoal to achieve exceptional smoothness.

“Perfect with or without vermouth, Altieri’s flavor stands up on its own with a silky finish and is best paired simply with bright olives or a citrus peel,” says Guerrero.

Absolut Elyx

<p>Food & Wine / ABSOLUT SPIRITS CO.</p>


For Dirty Martinis, Liana Oster, who helms both Side Hustle and the NoMad London’s beverage programs, is a big fan of wheat-based vodkas, specifically Absolut Elyx. “It’s a great vodka to use in a Martini,” she says.

“I think the saline, almost umami quality you get in a Dirty Martini pairs so well with this style of vodka,” says Oster. “I love Dirty Martinis with a lot of salt and a lot of olives, which can often overpower any base spirit in a drink. So, I want something that stands up to that challenge and has great body.”


<p>Food & Wine / Beam Suntory, Inc.</p>

Food & Wine / Beam Suntory, Inc.

“My favorite vodka for a Dirty Martini is Haku Japanese Vodka,” says Charles Friedrichs, beverage director at The Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City.

The Suntory-made vodka starts with a base of white rice and is filtered through bamboo charcoal, “giving this vodka an extremely clean profile and a round body that lingers on the palate,” says Friedrichs. “I prefer my Dirty Martinis only very slightly dirty, so Haku is a perfect choice. The roundness of this vodka is not overpowered by the olive brine.”

Breckenridge Vodka



“I really enjoy Breckenridge Vodka as the base of a Dirty Martini,” says Christopher Dally, the sommelier of  The Iberian Pig – Buckhead in Atlanta. “They use pure, untouched Colorado mountain water with a beautiful minerality, which truly sets this vodka apart.”

Breckenridge Vodka is full of bright lemon notes and a slight salinity which plays off the brine of onions or olives well, and with a mellow finish.

Supergay Vodka

<p>Food & Wine / Supergay Spirits</p>

Food & Wine / Supergay Spirits

Stephen Rowe, the co-owner of the Minneapolis restaurant Dario, says you could order their rail vodka, but you’d be better off to order Supergay Vodka, an organic vodka made from New York springwater and non-GMO corn and filtered through coconut vodka to purify the spirit. (Plus, proceeds go toward foundations that support the LGTBQ+ community.) To pair with the vodka, Rowe heats his olive brine and seasons it with salt and thyme.

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