MSG Martini

For Bonnie's signature MSG martini, Bonnie's lead bartender Channing Centeno creates a solution of MSG (monosodium glutamate), a salt which naturally occurs in things like tomatoes and cheese which, like table salt, enhances the flavor of anything it is added to. In lieu of vermouth, Shaoxing wine, a sweet and sour Chinese rice wine made for both drinking and cooking, is used here, bringing complex, savoriness, acidity and subtle sweetness to the martini, while olive brine adds a briney, saline quality. (The combination of salty olive brine and sweet and sour Shaoxing wine is made even more umami-forward with the addition of a few dashes of the MSG solution. ) Finally, a citrus- and juniper-forward gin like Botanist counters the salty and savory flavors of the other ingredients, bringing everything into balance.

MSG Martini
Photo: Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen
Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins

2022 Best New Chef Calvin Eng and Lead Bartender Channing Centeno are reclaiming MSG on the cocktail menu at Bonnie's, his Cantonese American restaurant in Brooklyn, where this playful take on the classic cocktail is just one example of Eng's playful take on modern Cantonese American cuisine. The result is a unique martini that's incredibly food-friendly—at Bonnie's, it plays off the salty, spicy, and sweet flavors of their dishes. The cocktail is deeply savory while also being balanced on the palate. And the MSG solution is genius: save the leftover solution in an air-tight dasher or empty bitters bottle and use them to boost the flavor of any cocktail. Eng suggests trying a few dashes of the MSG solution in a Bloody Mary for an extra hit of salty umami.


  • Pinch of MSG powder (about 1/16 teaspoon)

  • 1 tablespoon water

  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Castelvetrano olive brine, plus 3 pitted olives, for garnish

  • 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) gin (such as Botanist) or vodka (such as Grey Goose)

  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) Shaoxing wine


  1. Stir together MSG powder and water until well dissolved. Transfer mixture to a dasher bottle. MSG solution can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 month.

  2. Stir together olive brine and 1 dash of MSG solution in a mixing glass. Add gin and Shaoxing wine. Fill the glass with ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled large martini or coupe glass. Garnish with olives. Reserve remaining MSG solution for additional cocktails.

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