Islay and Olive

Photo by Kelly Puleio

I see you, dirty-martini drinkers. And I raise you this potent prize from Arkansas bartender Shaun Traxler. It’s a vodka martini— properly called the Kangaroo—gone savory with peaty Scotch and olives four ways. You’ll drop a few pitted green olives into your batch and let them linger, then garnish with some additional frozen ones to keep the mixture cool. Add a little brine and olive oil and you have a luxuriously silky drink, best served damn cold. Note that the olive oil will solidify if you let it hang out in the freezer, so it’s best to add it just before serving.

12 servings


    • 8 pitted green olives
    • 1 ½ cups vodka
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Islay Scotch (such as Laphroaig 10)
    • ¾ cup dry vermouth (such as Dolin)
    • ½ cup water
    • 2 tablespoons olive brine
    • 10 dashes orange bitters
    • Pinch fine sea salt
  1. To serve:
    • 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
    • 12 lemon twists
    • 12 to 24 green olives (optionally frozen)


    1. At least 2 hours and up to 4 hours before serving, make the batch. Place olives in a 1-liter swing-top bottle. Use a small funnel to pour in vodka, Scotch, vermouth, water, and olive brine. Add bitters and salt, then seal, turning gently end over end to mix, and chill in freezer. (If you’d prefer to batch further in advance, refrigerate filled bottle, then place in freezer 2 hours or so before serving.)
    2. Meanwhile, freeze additional olives for garnish, if desired. I like to place one in each divot of an empty ice cube tray to keep them separated.
    3. To serve, add olive oil to cocktail mixture. Reseal and turn bottle gently to mix. Pour cocktail into chilled martini or Nick and Nora glasses. Express oils from a lemon twist over each cocktail and use twist as a garnish, along with a frozen olive or two.

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