The Ingredient José Andrés Adds To Dirty Martinis (Hint: It's Not Olive Juice)

The most classic of all cocktails — a crisp, cold, and stunningly strong martini in a traditional v-shaped glass — is a wonderful thing. There are so many different ways to prepare and serve the drink, whether you prefer to take a martini naked by reducing the amount of vermouth, make it dirty with a little olive brine, or make it filthy by really ramping up the briny notes from the olive juice. But José Andrés has another idea for jazzing up the drink, with no olives in sight. Instead, he adds some asparagus water.

The chef is no stranger to putting his own spin on boozy beverages. José Andrés' ultra chill play on the pickleback pairs vodka and ice with sharp pickled pepper juice, for example, while he uses an ocean-inspired foam to replace the salt rim on a margarita. So how did he come up with the idea of incorporating the spring favorite asparagus into a dirty martini cocktail? 

"My mother used to drink asparagus water because the asparagus in Spain is so delicious[,] and we never wasted food," Andrés explained in an Instagram post. And the good news is — Andrés' asparagus water-infused martini only uses a small number of ingredients, and it's incredibly easy to shake up at home if you fancy creating a new summery sipper.

José Andrés elevates dirty martinis with asparagus water

Chef and restaurateur José Andrés uses vodka, sherry vinegar, and olive oil to make his dirty martini, but the star ingredient is asparagus water. Rather than using the water that asparagus has been cooked in, as you might imagine, he instead uses the liquid drained from canned asparagus. Andrés favors the tender white variety over the regular green, which is available canned all year round rather than just the short seasonal period when you can get it fresh.

Spanish white asparagus from Navarre is so prized that it is known as white gold, and the vegetable is very popular with chefs. Andrés is a particular fan of the precious canned juice, which he likes to use in culinary creations rather than discarding it. One way he likes to do this is by combining the canned liquid into a soup along with the spears, water, oil, vinegar, and salt.

For his dirty martini, Andrés simply shakes together all the ingredients over ice before straining everything into a chilled glass. The vegetable water brings a fragrant grassy freshness to the cocktail — while a touch of sherry vinegar adds a sweet-sharp note that pairs perfectly with the asparagus.

Try adding other fruits and vegetables to martinis for a fresh spin

Asparagus is not the only produce that can take a vodka- or gin-based martini to the next level. Try incorporating fresh fruit juices, syrups, or bitters for a refreshing depth of flavor, such as muddled watermelon with simple syrup, fresh blackberries tempered with orange bitters, or sweet-yet-tart cherry juice. But you could also try some more unusual additions, too.

Make a fragrant tomato water by pulsing the fruit through a food processor and then wrapping it in a cloth, and letting the juices drip through into a bowl. The resulting flavorful liquid is delicious when combined with the usual chilled gin and vermouth, and garnished with some fresh basil — think of it like a boozy caprese twist. You could even add a Greek salad spin by steeping tomatoes, oregano, cucumber, and feta in gin or vodka overnight before using the strained aromatic spirit infusion as a martini base.

If you want to experiment with vegetables in cocktails, like José Andrés, there are plenty of creative options, too. Give a dirty martini a rich, earthy element by incorporating a tablespoon of pickled jarred beetroot liquid with vodka and vermouth. Infuse gin with dried mushrooms for 24 hours before creating a martini with the savory, umami-rich liquid. Or try adding fresh carrot, orange, and lemon juices to your next gin-based martini for a bright, colorful concoction that tastes like a summer's day in a glass.