Get Slick Behind the Bar with Olive Oil Cocktails

El Five Martini at Edible Beats in Denver, CO. Image: Lucy Beaugard

What’s greenish-yellow, fragrant, slippery and finding its way into your cocktail shaker? Olive oil.

Bartenders are finding it’s the way to add an aromatic and savory component to Martinis and other drinks via fat washing a spirit with it or spritzing or dropping it on the surface of a drink. At the Broken Shaker in Los Angeles, the Audrey 2 starts with Grey Goose Vodka that’s fat washed with olive oil, stirred with basil eau de vie, Carpano Bianco and black pepper tincture, garnished with a pickled cherry tomato.

And at Bootlegger in San Diego, the Mi Familia mixes blanco Tequila with verde liqueur, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, fresh lime juice, basil, cucumbers and agave.

In general, more flavorful varieties of oil work well with fuller-flavored spirits like tequila, mezcal and rum, while delicate oils are better with vodka and gin. Back away from the vinaigrette and mix up these drinks.

Torali Martini olive oil cocktail by Leo Enriquez at the Ritz-Carlton

Torali Martini

Recipe courtesy of Leo Enriquez, Food & Beverage Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, IL; Image: Kailley Lindman

The drink’s namesake restaurant has a culinary focus on steak and Italian specialties, and Enriquez wanted to bring one of the cuisine’s staple ingredients to the bar menu as well. Olive oil “adds to the depth of flavor to the cocktail and produces a very unique and round mouthfeel,” he says. Like all of Torali’s Martinis, it’s stirred not shaken to avoid chilling it down too much and preserve the drink’s subtle flavors.

  • 1 ½ oz. Plymouth Gin
  • 1 ½ oz. Dry vermouth (they use a proprietary blend, but Cocchi or Dolin Dry Vermouth would work well)
  • 1 tsp. Italian olive oil
  • 2 Castelvetrano olives, for garnish

Add the gin and vermouth to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, use a dropper to dispense the olive oil on the surface of the drink, and garnish with the olives.

El Five Martini olive oil cocktail by Ky Belk at Edible Beats

El Five Martini

Recipe courtesy of Ky Belk, Bar Director, Edible Beats, Denver, CO; Image: Lucy Beaugard

This libation on the menu at the restaurant group’s buzzy Spanish small plates spot was inspired by Belk wanting to add something to the cocktail list with Spanish olive oil. He fat washes vodka or gin, then mixes it with dry, briny Manzanilla sherry and an herbed olive brine. Olive oil “definitely leaves some beautiful aromatics behind in the gin as well as a slightly more viscous mouthfeel,” he points out. “I love incorporating savory components into cocktails.”

  • 2 oz. Spanish olive oil fat-washed vodka or gin (see note)
  • 1 oz. Manzanilla sherry
  • ¾ oz. herb-infused olive brine (see note)
  • Lemon twist, for garnish
  • 3 Spanish olives on a pick, for garnish

Add the vodka or gin, sherry and olive brine to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe, express the lemon twist over the drink’s surface and glass stem and discard, then garnish with the olives.

Read this: Trend Alert: In Celebration of Fat

For the olive oil fat washed vodka or gin:

Combine a 750ml bottle of vodka or gin and 2 oz. Spanish olive oil in a container with a tightly fitting lid. Shake vigorously and store in a cool, dark place for 24 hours. Place container in the freezer until the olive oil completely separates and solidifies. Remove the olive oil layer with a spoon, then strain the remaining spirit through a coffee filter to clarify.

For the herb-infused olive brine:

Add rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, lemon twists, black peppercorns, salt and Champagne vinegar to a container of olives and brine, to taste, and let infuse for several days. Both the olives and the brine will be much more flavorful.

Oil Can Boyd olive oil cocktail by Owen Thomson, owner of Archipelago

Oil Can Boyd

Recipe courtesy of Owen Thomson, Owner, Archipelago, Washington, D.C.; Image: Kelly Magyarics

The Corn ‘n Oil is a classic tiki cocktail so named because a layer of thick, dark blackstrap rum resembling an oil slick contrasts the yellowish hue of falernum mixed with lime. Thomson—who also happens to be a big baseball fan—created a version with olive oil fat-washed rum that's an ode to the nickname of pitcher Dennis Ray Boyd, who won a career-high 16 games for the Red Sox in 1986.

  • 2 oz. Olive-oil infused Hamilton Blackstrap Rum (see Note)
  • ½ oz. Falernum (Thomson makes his own, but feel free to substitute a commercial version)
  • ¼ oz. Hamilton 151 Rum
  • ¼ oz. 2:1 Demerara simple syrup (2:1 ratio of sugar to water)
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Fresh orchid, for garnish

Add the above ingredients (except garnish) to a clean plastic oil can. Fill a skull mug with crushed ice, overturn the bottle into the mug, and garnish with a fresh orchid.

For the fat washed rum:

Pour a 750ml bottle of blackstrap rum into a container that can be put into the freezer. Add 1 cup olive oil and shake to combine. Place the container in a cool, dark place for a day, shaking several times. Freeze the container, skim off the olive oil, and strain out the remaining solids through cheesecloth.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.