What Is A 'Dirty Dump' Cocktail?

In the world of mixology — where new recipes, techniques, and trends are always emerging — the professional lexicon evolves to accommodate it. These words usually start in the microcosm of a singular establishment, and give bar staff a shorthand for describing new beverages and processes. Maybe they migrate to other bars and become internationally known — or maybe they don't. But if you love cocktails, exploring the latest terms and phrases can be a fun way to dive deeper into something you enjoy. It might even help you find your new signature drink.

The dirty dump is a technique in which a bartender measures ingredients into a cocktail shaker, fills it with ice, vigorously shakes, and then pours the complete contents of the vessel into a glass — without straining it. So the ice, muddled herbs, fruit pieces, and any other solid and liquid ingredients used to prepare the drink are served up together, giving the customer a complete sensory experience of each element used to make their drink.

How the technique can make your cocktail better – and more eco-friendly

You may not love the idea of an unstrained cocktail at first — why would you want clumps in your drink? But this move can also make your beverage frothier, and if herbs and fruit are involved, the dirty dump will enhance the flavor of your drink by giving these ingredients more time to bloom — and allowing you to engage each component of your drink directly. This added layer of texture and increased flavor is especially appealing in rustic drinks, which are more individualistic and varied than your usual gin and tonic or vodka soda. While customers have very specific expectations when ordering these beverages, they're more open to new experiences in craft cocktails that are likely to introduce them to something new.

The dirty dump also requires bartenders to be more exact about what they add to their shakers, as nothing will be removed before serving. Adding too much mint or lime not only means product waste — it could also skew the flavor of your drink. In that same vein, it's important to avoid adding too much ice to the shaker, to prevent over-diluting. Since less ice is used in the shaker, and the finished drink isn't being strained into a glass with fresh ice, there's less water waste. But more importantly, since a lot of energy is used to make ice in the first place, cutting back overall is more environmentally sound.

Drinks that work great with the dirty dump

This method can elevate some beverages, but it's not a good option for every drink. If a cocktail has a component with carbonation, like tonic or soda water, the dirty dump will cause the liquid to go flat. Because a dirty dump cocktail has smaller shards of ice in it, the result of the cubes breaking apart inside the shaker, carbonation bubbles are kept from moving organically to the surface of the drink.

But a number of classic cocktails are accentuated by this technique. Bartenders in Texas often dirty dump to make ultra-frothy margaritas, which are instantly upgraded with a good, hard shake. It's also popular in Tiki bars that feature many drinks that lend themselves nicely to this method, like the Mai Tai, Zombie, or Royal Hawaiian, which gives gin a tropical twist. If you want to try this out with a carbonated cocktail, you can avoid having it going flat by dirty dumping all the other ingredients, then topping it off with your carbonated liquid at the end.