This is a tasty but simple and unsweet Soju martini cocktail with only three main ingredients, plus a garnish. 🍸
As much as I love a good, sophisticated cocktail, dry ice or egg whites are for special occasions only.
Even though this soju dirty martini only takes a couple of minutes to create, it is big on flavor.
There are plenty of arguments on which is the best alcohol for a martini.
Ask this question of a cocktail enthusiast, and you will get strong feelings and a long conversation about why they feel the way that they do.
But I say, let them have this argument while I am happily sipping on my ugly-green but totally delicious Soju Martini Cocktail.
Soju is an alcoholic distilled spirit originating in Korea, made from rice and/or other grains, and some are made with sweet potato.
It is often called “Korean vodka.”
Think of soju as a broad name for a type of alcohol, not a brand.
You might find a Jinro soju (this brand appears to be the oldest and most popular in South Korea) or Charm soju or O2Linn soju in the same way you might see Grey Goose vodka or a Smirnoff vodka or a Duckworth vodka.
Lots of different kinds of soju out there, so if you walk into a liquor store and say “I’d like a bottle of soju,” someone there will say, “What kind?”
And from there, even each brand might have flavors (plum, grapefruit, etc.) of soju, so you just have to do your homework.
I found this image to help me a lot in understanding the concept, especially because a lot of the brand labels look the same.
Soju is a fairly new discovery for me. A friend introduced me to it and brought me a sampling of various flavors along with the original flavor. The “unflavor” if you will.
This unsweet soju martini I made for the photos has the plain, clear Lotte “Saan” soju (20.1% alc./vol.), plus olive juice, dry vermouth, and olive garnish. You can use any plain soju on hand or that you find locally.
Another nice feature of drinking martinis with soju is that soju has a lower alcohol content than many vodka or gin brands.
Soju has slightly more alcohol than wine but about half as much as an average vodka.
Our recipe is for a dirty martini using plain soju but you can mix it with a few different variations.
Use a flavored soju: You could mix this up a bit by using the Charm flavored soju.
The Charm flavor has a hint of toasted almonds and vanilla. If you use this flavor, use the lemon twist—don’t use the olives and olive brine.
The flavored soju has an even lower alcohol volume of 13%.
Add lemon: Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice and a lemon twist.
Add a jigger of Cointreau: This is actually my personal favorite martini variation, but only when I’m not using olives. I only add about ⅛ of a shot. It is just enough to add a lightly orange cast.
What kind of olives?
Dirty Martinis are generally made with green olives.
High quality olives that are boldest in flavor make the best cocktails, I’ve found.
If you’re reading this while standing in front of the olive section at your grocery store, choose Spanish Queen, Manzanilla, or imported, rich Castelvetranos.
My only rule, per se, is to use a pitted (no pits) olive because you don’t want someone to accidentally swallow or bite down on those hard pits.
But any nice, fat green olives, stuffed or not, make the lovely brine that gives this drink the pop you love about a martini.
In my recipe, I used garlic-stuffed olives, but you don’t have to use stuffed olives at all.
Another popular type of olive for martinis is an onion-stuffed olive.
Keep in mind that flavored olives and olive brine will change the flavor of the drink.
But since this isn’t a sweet drink, mixing up that savory possibility might be an interesting twist.
What kind of olive brine to use?
Remember, the highest-quality olives are usually nestled into some high quality brine.
When it comes to the olive brine for a martini, you can just use the olive juice from your jar of olives.
I like to use a pre-made olive brine mixture because my olive jar runs dry pretty quickly.
The brand that I have been keeping on hand lately is Barsmith Dirty Martini mix.
The bottom line
Soju is a fairly new discovery for me.
A friend introduced me to it and brought me a sampling of various flavors along with the original flavor.
The “unflavor” if you will.
I really enjoy trying different soju cocktails.
I enjoy soju a lot but I like most of my cocktails to be on the savory side, rather than sweet.
This one came to be because I drink a martini now and then, and I’m always looking to make something new and different.
If you want to try a 1970s-green-carpet-colored drink that is flavorful, you’ll like this one a lot.
- 2 oz plain Soju
- 1/2 oz dry vermouth
- 1/2 oz olive brine
- Whole olives -or- lemon twist
- Cocktail Shaker
- 2-oz shot glass
- Martini glass
- Fork to retrieve olives out of jar
- Knife and cutting board if you’re using lemon garnish
- Add ice to a cocktail shaker.
- Except for garnish, add all ingredients to the shaker.
- Place the lid on the cocktail shaker.
- Shake vigorously until the cocktail is mixed and cold.
- Strain the drink into your favorite martini glass.
- Garnish as desired.