You Should Start Making A 'Pasta Water Martini'

There is an evolution to our drinking, influenced partly by our age, how much money we have, and, thanks to social media, the latest trends. Starting as teens, many of us get our first taste of alcohol by palming something from our parents' liquor cabinet. Then, as college-age kids strapped for cash, we'll settle for a cheap beer (Remember Natty Light?) to get the party started. As we age and our palates mature, though, the White Zinfandel we used as a gateway to Cabernet is no longer palatable.

As with food trends, cocktail trends define what many of us are currently drinking, heavily influenced by social media feeds. According to Drinks International, bourbon and gin are some of the most popular spirits of 2022, explaining why the negroni, Old Fashioned, and dry martini have been this year's top-selling cocktails.

Interestingly, food and drink trends have converged in the past, and they're now going far beyond snacks in a Bloody Mary, pickle spears in an Iceland dill martini, or shishito peppers in a shishito spice margarita (via Forbes). Long regarded as the secret behind a good pasta dish, starch-filled pasta water is an essential ingredient Italian grandmothers have used for centuries to finish pasta dishes. Chef Marc Vetri of Fiorella in Philadelphia explores whether the "liquid gold" can do its magic in cocktails, too, shaking up a "dirty pasta water martini."

Pasta water makes for a smooth cocktail

Chefs, nonnas, and good home cooks know that the starchy water leftover from cooking pasta helps to emulsify a buttery or oily sauce, thicken a thin marinara, and bind together a hearty bolognese when the pasta, the sauce, and a ladle-full of pasta water are combined during the final few minutes of cooking. With gallons of pasta water already available in their restaurants, resourceful chefs like Vetri also use it to thicken cocktails, per Food & Wine.

To prepare a dirty pasta water martini, Vetri substitutes the dry vermouth in a classic dirty martini recipe with pasta water. If you've adequately salted the pasta water, it adds a welcome salinity and "silky body and viscosity" to the drink. To balance out the rich water, Vetri recommends using an "herbaceous" gin or vodka. Naturally, the chef thinks the cocktail is food-friendly, pairing well with hearty pasta dishes like Bolognese.

According to BBC Good Food, egg whites have traditionally been used to emulsify and thicken cocktails. The flavorless protein, when shaken, traps air in the drink, creating a smooth, rich cocktail. Unlike ready-to-use pasta water, though, egg white foams can be finicky to prepare, which is why award-winning bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana advises using the freshest possible eggs so they foam more easily and don't have a smell. Otherwise, give pasta water a try in a whiskey cocktail or Vetri's dirty pasta water martini. Cheers!