What Does Dirty Mean In A Drink

More and more bars and coffee shops are now offering dirty drinks on their menu. Hearing a dirty drink might not sound appealing to some at first, but there’s a reason why this drink has been growing increasingly popular across the world in recent years.

However, only some people are familiar with what this unique drink is. If you’re clueless about why it is called that way, read on to learn more about what makes a drink dirty.

What Does Dirty Mean in a Drink?

You will often encounter dirty drinks at bars and coffee shops. However, the word “dirty” has a different meaning depending if you’re referring to an alcoholic beverage or a coffee.

If you’re talking about alcoholic drinks, a dirty drink is usually a classic cocktail in which the color and taste are slightly altered. You can change it by adding savory ingredients to make a dirty drink. They are perfect for those who want to be adventurous with their drinks and want to veer away from the classic cocktails.

On the other hand, dirty coffee refers to a drink made of cold milk at the bottom while hot espresso floats on top of it. You will notice how the espresso slowly drifts downs through the milk, creating a “dirty” appearance. (Read Can You Froth Creamer)

cocktail drink

What are the Different Dirty Alcohol Drinks?

There are now many kinds of dirty drinks offered at bars, but the most popular you might encounter is the dirty martini. A dirty martini is created by adding bar olive juice to a classic martini to dilute the clarity, making it saltier than usual.

Also called a dirty vodka martini, you can easily create this popular drink at home. Here are some ingredients and a step-by-step process to make this:


  • 2 oz. of vodka 
  • 0.5 oz of Extra Dry Vermouth
  • 0.5 oz of Olive Brine 
  • Green olives
  • Ice  


  1. Add ice to your cocktail shaker.
  2. Pour the vodka, vermouth, and olive brine into your shaker, then shake for about 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into your martini glass, then put your olive garnish to finish.

Tips on Making the Perfect Dirty Martini

If you want to make the best dirty martini at home, make sure you remember these things:

  • Try using gin for your martini instead of vodka. You’ll be surprised how a gin’s herbal overtones can provide a better balance than vodka.
  • You can make your dirty martini even dirtier by increasing the amount of olive brine added to your drink.
  • Best if you serve your dirty martini shaken so you will incorporate the olive brine into the drink thoroughly. 
  • Chill your martini glasses first to keep your drink cool for longer.
  • Try using blue cheese-stuffed olives or jalapeno olives with your martini. Alternatively, you can also use gourmet olives for a more luxurious feel.

Other Dirty Cocktails You Can Enjoy

Many classic cocktails are also transformed into dirty drinks, making them more flavorful and enjoyable. Here are some of the ones that are often made dirty:


Dirty Mojito

Turn a classic mojito into a dirty one by using gold, spiced, or dark rum for a surprising twist.

Dirty Margarita

Make your classic margarita a bit spicier by adding sliced jalapenos or a jalapeno brine for the rim.

Dirty Bloody Mary

Level up your Bloody Mary by adding pitted olives and olive brine. You can use tequila instead of vodka or add clam juice for extra umami.

Dirty Shirley

Make a grown-up version of the kid-friendly Shirley Temple drink by adding vodka and lemon-lime soda instead of ginger ale. (Read What Is Double Blended At Starbucks)

What is Dirty Coffee?

Originating from Tokyo, Japan, a dirty coffee is simply a coffee with cold milk topped with hot espresso. However, the secret lies in the texture of the espresso shot poured on top since it has to be thick and creamy.

If you wonder what dirty coffee tastes like, it tastes a bit bitter at first sip since you get the hot espresso. It is followed by a sweet contrast, the cold milk, making it the perfect combination.

When drinking your coffee, you might be tempted to mix it before taking a sip. Don’t! The beauty of a dirty coffee lies in its layering, so you must enjoy its layers from top to bottom. Enjoy the bitter taste of espresso, wait for the chilled milk to slowly seep in, and enjoy the flavorful mix of the hot espresso and cold milk.

What is the Difference Between a Dirty Coffee and an Iced Latte?

A dirty coffee and an iced latte have the same ingredients, so people might need clarification between them. However, it’s the way these ingredients are combined that makes them different from each other.

When making an iced latte, you pull a shot or double shot of espresso, add some ice, and froth the milk. Once you pour the espresso into the frothed milk, the shots stay on top and do not steep through the milk. It is then stirred, so the espresso and milk mix together, forming a latte.

Meanwhile, it’s all about the separation when it comes to dirty coffee. Some people use the back of a spoon when pouring their creamy espresso shots over the milk so that it will stay separated. So, the first sip of your coffee will be the espresso rather than the mix.

What is the Difference Between a Dirty Coffee and a Dalgona Coffee?

When it comes to appearance, the dirty and Dalgona coffee look the same. They both have milk at the bottom and a creamy coffee layer on top.

The difference lies in how they’re made: dirty coffee uses espresso shots, while Dalgona coffee only uses instant coffee that is whipped until fluffy and creamy. Dirty coffee also doesn’t use sugar, an essential ingredient in Dalgona, to counter the bitter taste.

How to Make a Homemade Dirty Coffee

cup of coffee

If you found dirty coffee in your cup of tea when you first tried it, or you’re curious what it tastes like, you can easily create one at home.

You only need two ingredients: espresso shots and the icy milk of your choice. Espresso shots are best made with an espresso machine, but you can go for imitation espresso shots using a Keurig, Nespresso, AeroPress, or Moka Pot if you don’t have one at home.

You can also follow this easy recipe:


  • 6 fl. oz (180 ml) full-fat milk (or any milk of your choice)
  • 18 g ground coffee


  1. Pour your milk into a clear mug or glass, then place it in the freezer. Leave it for about 15 minutes.
  2. Before the 15-minute mark, start making your espresso. Pull a double shot of espresso using your espresso machine, AeroPress, or any machine you’ll use. 
  3. Get the chilled glass from the freezer.
  4. Carefully pour the espresso over an upside-down spoon into the chilled milk.

Tips on Making a Dirty Coffee

Achieve the best dirty coffee experience by following these tips:

  • Use dark roast coffee beans for your espresso shots. It will give the maximum contrast between your milk and espresso.
  • Full-fat milk can be your best base since it makes the drink thicker. 
  • You may add heavy cream to your milk to add a bit of sweetness, creating a balance for the bitter espresso shots.
  • Use a clear glass or mug, so you will see how the espresso steeps through the milk, hence witnessing the “dirty” effect.
  • Refrigerate your glass or mug before using it to get the whole temperature-changing experience.

What is a Dirty Chai?

Cocktails and coffee aren’t the only drinks you can make dirty. Chai — a black tea brewed with water, milk, spices, and a sweetener — can also be turned into a dirty drink by making a chai latte with added espresso shots. These espresso shots transform the classic chai latte drink into a dirty chai latte. (Read What To Wear To Starbucks Interview)

Dirty Coffee vs. Dirty Chai: What is the difference?

Dirty coffee and dirty chai latte are entirely different but also the same since they both contain espresso. However, a dirty chai latte is made of chai, milk, and espresso, while dirty coffee doesn’t have added spices, such as cinnamon or cardamom.

It is also of note that a dirty chai latte can be served as a hot drink or cold drink, while dirty coffee is neither because it’s a combination of both hot and cold.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to be a Japanese local to try this fantastic drink. Many coffee shops and bars already offer this drink on their menu, or you can create one at your home. Once you’ve achieved that perfect martini or dirty coffee, you’ll surely crave that “dirty” taste now and then!