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James Bond is a Saboteur

May 11, 2009

There are movies that have done damage to cocktails.  There was that ridiculous Tom Cruise movie that turned barmen into showboating acrobats.  But Sean Connery, with the help of Ian Fleming, has done the most to damage the central icon of cocktail-dom: The Martini.

I’ll say this once.  Martinis should be stirred.

And when I say Martinis, by the way, I’m not talking about anything served in a stemmed cocktail glass.  I am talking about specifically about the classic combination of gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters and ice.

Here is the rule:
SHAKE cocktails that use fresh citrus, eggs, or other ingredients that could settle.
STIR cocktails that are made entirely of spirits, or simple two ingredient combinations.

Some people will say shaking will “bruise the gin.”  Let’s leave the snobbery behind, and talk about the effects you can see and feel if you shake your Martini.  First and worst, the drink will be frothy.  A Martini is a simple and elegant cocktail.  When made properly, it feels silky on your lips and in your mouth.  Shaking destroys this.

Shaking also destroys the clarity of the cocktail.  When ice bangs around a cocktail shaker with tremendous force and violence, the ice breaks up into teeny tiny slivers that produce a cloudy drink.

And finally, shaking diminishes the flavor of the drink two ways.  First, shaking does make the drink colder than stirring.  Cold is the enemy of taste and smell.  This gets geeky.  The colder something is, the less stimulated its molecules.  The less stimulated its molecules, the fewer make it up to your nasal cavity.  Second, all that shaking of the ice speeds up its melting and further dilutes the drink.

So, why would anyone order a Martini shaken?  Other than to be like Bond of course?

I can think of a few reasons.
1) You have never had a properly made Martini and do not know what you are missing.
2) You want something cold and tasteless that will do the job, without being so gauche as to order shots.
3) You find out the bar doesn’t have orange bitters and decide to abandon all hope.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2009 8:10 pm

    I like it

  2. BenP permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:19 pm

    oh gosh, you’re bought into the orange bitters in the martini for good? i’m not sure i buy it. i haven’t really tried it though. i usually use a lemon twist so they may do a lot of the duty of the bitters.

    what was it that i read that suggested readers confront snobs with challenges to identify any ‘bruised’ gin via taste test?

    i used to wish that a martini on the rocks was a good idea. eventually i started just drinking gin on the rocks with a twist. it usually started out well but was too watery by the end.

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