Feral Martini, The Beloved Martini Does the Wild Thing

Soiled Again

It seems a particularly American trait never to leave well enough alone. We’re always tinkering with the classics, coming up with a new twist. After all, why adhere to the status quo when you can move on to the latest and greatest?

So it was with the Dirty Martini, the inevitable evolution of an icon. The dignified combination of ice-cold gin (or vodka, if you must) and a whiff of vermouth was transmogrified by a maverick splash of olive brine.

One person’s sacrilege is another’s apotheosis. That’s why, when asked to reconceive the Dirty Martini, I didn’t demur. Homage is often the better part of invention. Though this cocktail’s provenance proved difficult to trace, it appears to have been inspired by a traditional Russian hangover cure that involves adding pickle brine to vodka. How to dirty it up even more became my challenge.

A great many things that smack of the earth cross our lips. Beets. Liver. Poi. When certain wines are described as exhibiting “minerality,” we’re tasting limestone, schist and granite—quite literally the terroir. In considering which of our local ingredients offers an equally compelling expression of place, the ramp springs to mind. It has a filthy funk in the nose which, like that of the most potent cheeses, translates to a rich, wild taste on the tongue. Given the onion’s checkered past with the Martini (their affair resulted in the Gibson), I knew this partnership had potential. In place of vermouth, I opted for mezcal, a spirit imbued not only with the vegetal tang of agave but with the smoky essence of wood fire and notes of clay from the ancient stills.

In spring, I harvest ramps, often taking just the green leaves and leaving the bulbs to regenerate, now that over-eager foragers have made a dent in our local patches. When I do dig bulbs, I like to poach them in a spicy brine. The leaves can be dried in a dehydrator or a very low oven and ground up with salt for a delicious finishing condiment that successfully preserves the ramp’s elusive flavor. I use it to rim the glass of this cocktail, which also gets a pickled ramp garnish. I have christened my concoction the Feral Martini and fervently hope it will unleash something wild in you.

By / Photography By Laura Silverman | March 20, 2017


Chill a Martini glass in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Just before making the cocktail, remove the glass from the freezer. Moisten half the rim with ramp brine and roll in ramp salt.

Fill a mixing glass with ice and add the gin, mezcal and ramp brine. Stir for a minute to chill thoroughly. Place 1 king ice cube in the chilled glass and strain the cocktail on top. Garnish with the pickled ramp and serve immediately.


  • 2½ ounces gin
  • ½ ounce mezcal
  • 1 barspoon pickled ramp brine
  • Ramp salt for the rim
  • Pickled ramp for garnish
Build your own subscription bundle.
Pick 3 regions for $60