The Really Good Pickle Martini


If you are a minutia-obsessed Seinfeld fan like I am (Is it possible to be any other kind of Seinfeld fan? Minutia is that dude's umwelt) then you remember the episode wherein Jerry tries to decipher the note he scribbled in the middle of the night while half-asleep. He finally figures out it's a line from a sci-fi B-movie he'd been up late watching. A line, it turns out, that's actually not that funny.

Such it's been for me the past few weeks with a drink name and recipe I came across and jotted down and now I'm all like, wuh? The drink's called The Filthy Narwhal, and Googling it comes up goose eggs as far as a source or point of origin.* I think I may have seen it on the online cocktail menu of some resto in Boston. I have no idea why I think that, seeing as I can't remember the last time I was in Boston, nor do I have any plans to be in Boston, but so fire the synapses of my sleep-deprived memory these days.

What I need no help recalling is what about the Filthy Narwhal made me want to copy it down -- it's got a pickle garnish! I [heart] pickles. When I shove pastrami down my piehole dine respectably at a Katz's or a Schwartz's or any other Jewish deli, I'm mainly in it for the pickles. (Maybe I just have a thing for foods that are green?)

On a different** episode of Seinfeld, Seinfeld said, "I've never had a really good pickle." While this statement should bring much shame on Jerome and his Hebrew roots, I am here to state that you can have a really good pickle martini. Like, The Really Good Pickle Martini.


Now, the trick to a really good pickle martini is that the cocktail should contain pickle juice but should not taste absolutely and entirely like pickle. You don't want it to be so over the top that it becomes more gimmick than potable. That's a tricky trick because pickle juice is powerful. (Say that 10 times fast.) And in fact, the Filthy Narwhal sidesteps this quandary entirely; it doesn't contain any pickle juice, only vodka and dry vermouth with a garnish of organic dill pickle and blue-cheese stuffed olive. (Yes, I wrote all that down, but didn't write down where it came from.)

This martini is really rilly good, y'all. The flavor profile has a bit of brine to it but it's still very much a proper martini even though it tastes noticeably different from a standard martini, and honestly, if you think it's just another dirty martini, believe me when I tell you it's not dirty at all. (It even looks all but clear.) The pickle garnish exudes a snappy olfactory element as you dive in so that your nose as well as tongue gets in on the fun. (Now that's a bit dirty.)


I'm just gonna say it: I am master of my domain. (Yes, we're still talking about cocktails.)

The Really Good Pickle Martini

2 ounces Gordon's Dry Gin

1/4 ounce Martini & Rossi dry vermouth

1/4 ounce pickle juice

Dill pickle, to garnish (I used a pickle slice, the kind they sell in jars for putting on sandwiches)

Pour gin, vermouth and pickle juice into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Add your pickle garish, preferably skewered.

*UPDATE: Source found! I was close; it's not from a cocktail menu at a Boston resto but a Burlington, VT resto. Still a wuh? but at least I'll sleep better tonight.

**CORRECTION: It's the SAME episode!! What are the odds?!? I hang my head in Seinfeld-fan shame.

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The Dirty Gin Martini with Pickled White Asparagus Spears

The second time I lived in Manhattan, which was for about 30 months, I had an annual ritual (you do the math) of meeting up with m'gays at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in the West Village and drinking a big, fat, dirty vodka martini. This ritual was perfect for a number of reasons -- for two, the Knickerbocker is a bona fide throwback of a joint, its prices equally retro -- but I guess the main one was that this was the only time I would ever allow/fancy myself a dirty vodka martini; it had to be with these friends, sitting at this bar, where the bartender, whomever it was on a particular evening, would always serve the cocktails oversized, even saving the little extra in the bottom of the shaker to top off my glass after I'd taken a few sips.

Now, one could argue that there's a lot that's less than perfect about this scenario. All-booze cocktails ought to be stirred, not shaken, lest you "bruise" the liquors (I believe purists are particularly strident in their anti-bruised-booze stance when it comes to gin); you're not supposed to want any diluted-down "extra" besmirching your drink; martinis are passe and dirty-anything is an abomination on par with Red Bull or drinks that approximate birthday cake.

For me, having all these little rules in place about exactly when I'd indulge in a dirty vodka martini somehow made drinking one OK. Like how dieters rationalize their way right into the ice-cream case at PathMark, perhaps, or the way the editors of the Approval Matrix can rhapsodize with equal gushiness about Roc-A-Fella and Evan Ziporyn's electric gamelan music. Look at me, the highbrow gettin' all lowbrow! What naughtiness! I'm gonna go watch Millionaire Matchmaker now even though I claim my favorite show is Downton Abbey! I could not only justify but revel in the dirty martini's briny tang, which I love so much, because I wasn't just ordering a cocktail; I was having a moment. (I must also admit, I don't love the dirty-martini taste enough to want it regularly; once yearly jibed with how often I'd get an guttural, gustatorial hankering for one.)

The PhoBlograpHusband found these white pickled asparagus spears on sale at our Montreal supermarket not long ago. Occasionally we buy groceries here based on how much the packaging makes us laugh, like the time I bought fish sticks because it said on the box, "Now In A Box!" (WTF did they used to come in??!? #thatswhatshesaid), and M'Lord asparagus spears clearly fit that bill ("#foodforthe1percent," I joked online at the time). I think it was Sean who said they and their brine would make a great basis for a dirty martini. As for me? Now that I'm up in Montreal and having a hard time finding where m'newgays at, I thought that was a smashing idea, and perhaps the start of a whole, new ritual.

One more thing, speaking of high-falutin vs. lowdown rituals: I don't care what Rachel Maddow proselytizes, I say eat the garnish. OK, so maybe not if it's got a rind on it, but Especially Yes if it's a big, honking, salty-briny kinda garnish like a nice, long swizzle-skewer of stuffed olives or white pickled asparagus spears, which is half the fun of ordering something like a dirty martini. (I mean, srsly, who doesn't want to be this girl?). Or house-brandied cherries. ALWAYS eat house-brandied cherries.

The Dirty Gin Martini with Pickled White Asparagus Spears

2 ounces Bombay Dry Gin

About 1/3 ounce Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

About 1/3 ounce pickled white asparagus brine

Pickled white asparagus spears and fresh dill (optional) to garnish

Combine gin, vermouth and brine in an ice-filled mixing glass and use a bar spoon to mix as fast (yet smoothly) as you can. Strain into a well-chilled martini or cocktail glass. Garnish to your liking with white pickled asparagus spears, and perhaps a sprig of dill as well.

Tasting Notes

Yes, I used to enjoy dirty vodka martinis at Knickerbocker, but I made a gin martini here. Why? Because I wanted to try one (honestly, I've had gin martinis, and I've had dirty vodka martinis, but I don't think I've ever had a dirty gin martini). And because we have no vodka in the house at present. And also I guess a little because I do think it's time for me to grow up a little bit more (she said, as she sipped a dirty gin martini while six months' pregnant.)

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