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Why shaken, not stirred? (wikipedia.org)
39 points by julian37 on Dec 5, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 35 comments

As a self confessed Martini nut I can tell you two things, one of whom was told to me by Allesandro, head barman at the Duke's Hotel, London where they have a special Vesper Martini that's as close to the original as you can get.

In the old days people didn't mix vodka and gin in cocktails as they were much stronger than they are now. In Casino Royale Bond acts a particularly flashy, arrogant show-off type gambler. In the early 50s when the novel is set (although please do bear in mind that the story was heavily influenced by wartime events in the Naval Intelligence Division) people never mixed Gin and Vodka in a Martini, and a Martini was always stirred with a special spoon to avoid chipping the ice.

Bond, being the flashy type ordered his Martini with Vodka, which would then need to be shaken in order to avoid the oilyness that came with the potato-based vodkas of the time as per the wikipedia article. The act of it being shaken would've aroused much interest from people who would have asked what the gentleman was drinking, to which the response would seem incredible in a kind of 'who does this guy think he is' type of way. The casino is supposed to be a high brow csaino that will have seen better days, Bond was breaking etiquette to show off how big his balls were and to attract Le Chiffre's attention.

The other thing on a more technical point is that a modern vesper cannot be made with the same ingredients as the original (as the formulas have changed). In order to get something close you need a strong but fairly easy drinking vodka (at least 43% ABV), a neutral Gin as close to 53% as possible, Lillet Blanc (a white vermouth) and either a tincture of quinine or a dash of orange bitters. My personal recommendation would be for Berry Bros No. 3 Dry London Gin, Potocki Vodka, Lillet Blanc and Orange Angostura Bitters. Stirring takes longer to cool the drink down to the right temperature (around 1-3 degrees C), whereas shaking takes considerably less time, but you'll get ice particles in the resulting drink. As the drink cools more water melts into the drink, diluting the cocktail. Thus a shaken Martini is generally slightly stronger than a stirred one. The oxygenation of the mix also gives the drink a sharpness that you don't get in a stirred martini, but most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

The TL;DR for all of this is, vespers should be shaken and not stirred, or poured and layered (as per the Duke's bar), no other martini should be shaken - unless it's pure Gin and Vermouth in which case it can be gently shaken to waltz time.

> a strong but fairly easy drinking vodka (at least 43% ABV)

43% it's not a strong vodka, 40% is standard (disclaimer: I'm from Poland.) and by EU terms vodka starts at 37%. strong is like 70%, popular in Russia, Ukraine.

I like your disclaimer. 3 out of the top 5 vodkas I've ever tasted are from there :)

I'd avoid going over 55% on the vodka, the goal is to make it present but not to overpower the gin and vermouth.

Which ones? Funny is, we're famous for best vodkas, yet a lot of Poles think it's fancy to bring an import to the party - Finlandia is very popular around here.

I don't know how it should be in a martini, cause I drink it mostly raw. I mean, now I know, after reading your post :) I like the part "Bond was breaking etiquette to show off how big his balls" although I think it's a bit funny for most of eastern-europeans ;)

I guess in order, my top 5 favourite vodkas are:

1. Potocki (Polish)

2. Żubrówka (Polish)

3. Wyborowa (Polish)

4. A home-brewed vodka from a Ukrainian friend's still near Moscow.

5. Snow Queen (Kazakhstan)

I can't believe that poles of all people would drink Finlandia when there's things like Potocki around. Mind you, in the UK we have amazing ales and people drink things like Stella Artois and Carling.

Żubrówka and Wyborowa are very popular (first choice list), Potocki is more of an export product, and as I see the price it's about 3x more than Absolut or Finlandia and 4x Wyborowa, so it explains a lot. Near the Potocki price tag, Belvedere seems to be more known, but here I speak for myself, I'm from Warsaw and Belvedere is from Żyrardów (about 40km) while Potocki is from another region, maybe that's why I know this brand better, don't know, I drink a lot but to be honest I'm not a vodka expert.

About drinking Finlandia, Absolut etc. in PL, I think one thing is the price placement - it's a bit more expensive than popular local vodkas yet not too expensive as premium brands, second thing is the 'imported' factor, as in your beer example - people like import stuff even if sometimes local is desired abroad.

Oh, I love to drink an ale sometimes :) Most of Polish beer is crap so in this subject I don't have to be ashamed of drinking imports :)

"As the drink cools more water melts into the drink, diluting the cocktail. Thus a shaken Martini is generally slightly stronger than a stirred one."

When a drink is shaken, or stirred, with ice, the cooling happens as the heat from the drink is used for melting the ice, tying together the cooling and the diluting.

If the drink was mixed in a completely insulated container (= adiabatically), both shaking and stirring would result in exactly the same amount of ice melting, for exactly the same amount of cooling of the drink. Shaking just makes the heat exchange happen faster, by moving the liquid more over the ice surfaces.

In practice I would guess, (1) we rarely have the patience to stir a drink long enough to cool it as cold as a vigorous shake accomplishes, so I'd guess that actually the shaken drinks are colder, thus a little more diluted by water.

Or, if we really stir and shake until the same temperature, stirring takes longer, so there is more time for non-adiabatic effects: (2) more time for heat exchange with air, so maybe stirred are more diluted.

Then again, (3) usually we stir in a glass container but shake in a metal container, and metal has higher thermal conductivity, so actually cooling both the drink and the container walls would use more heat (=more melted ice) when shaking.

I'd guess that effects (1) and (3) are stronger than (2), and thus shaken drinks would be more diluted that stirred.

I'd like to see the results of a blind taste test by persons who swear it would make a difference to the taste.

I have my suspicions of what the outcome would be.

I did this earlier this year with a 1911-style Martini recipe (from the Knickerbocker Hotel in NYC) and could tell the difference. A fellow Martini nut did it with Vespers and he managed to tell the difference.

The problem is that to do these properly is quite expensive and being fairly strong, you're probably not going to manage more than two or three of them if you're lucky.

To give you an idea if it's done properly you can actually see the difference. Stirred Martinis take longer to cool and are more watery. Shaken Martinis get little ice particles forming in the drink, making them look a little cloudy.

I'd like to see the results of a blind taste test by persons who swear it would make a difference to the taste.

Mythbusters actually did that and yes they detected a difference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_%282008_season%29#M...

I'll leave it to you to watch the video (I saw a re-run a few months ago) and decide if it is real or not. I couldn't fault it barring wanting a lot more replication and testing with different people.

I drink manhattans, which are like martinis made with burbon (or more traditionally, rye), and I can certainly taste the difference between shaken vs. stirred. shaken ones have a foam on them and taste muddled, rather than crisp. I don't like specifying stirred when I order my drink because I think it comes off as a bit pretentious, but when I see the bartender pulling the shaker up above their shoulder, I'll usually stop him and quietly ask him to please stir it instead.

Actually a proper Manhattan is nothing like a modern Gin/Vodka Martini or a classical 20th century Martini, but is similar in some respects to a Perfect Martini due to the addition of sweet vermouth or the traditional Martinez, believed to be made with sweet vermouth.

Having said that, I do like the odd Rob Roy. Some places shake deliberately to get the froth as Manhattans tend to have a signature twist in posher places. I think you're right to ask to stir instead for a classic Manhattan (especially if you're using Canadian Club or Crown Royal).

I don't know about this drink, but if you stir an oil based salad dressing you are not going to get the same result as shaking it.


I'm now picturing James Bond ordering a Salade Niçoise in said manner.

But that would remove part of what you are paying for when you order a fine cocktail. The experience, the luxury of a complexly built tincture. While I agree these rituals may not significantly affect the taste to a blindfolded fellow it surely affects the perception of a tuxedoed gentleman at the bar.

And I'd like for people making similar comments to perform a test for Asperger's.

I have my suspicions of what the outcome would be.

FCI recently performed an empirical comparison of shaking vs. stirring:

Shaking completely chills, dilutes and aerates a drink in around 15 seconds, after which the drink stops changing radically and reaches relative equilibrium. Shaking is basically insensitive to bartender-induced variables. …bartender skill is very important in a stirred cocktail. Because stirring doesn’t reach equilibrium, stirred drinks are warmer and less diluted than shaken cocktails. Stirred drinks, unlike shaken ones, are not aerated. Stirring does not alter the texture of a drink—it merely chills and dilutes. A properly diluted cocktail stored at -5 degrees Celsius in a freezer is indistinguishable from a properly stirred one. http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/09/02/cocktail-science-in-...

That's an interesting article. I would argue that diluting a drink will alter the texture, as would many Whisky drinkers when debating straight up versus on the rocks.

Whenever you introduce ice into the mixture you're going to affect the concentration of water and introduce all of it's impurities. In a Martini you pour out the Martini but leave the ice in. Thus when you stir, there's more time to melt and you get a more watery Martini. You can actually taste the difference if you try at home (shake for 20 seconds - or 12-15 according to TFA - versus stir for 30-45 seconds).

That aside the article looks spot on, nice find.

Use caution, however, as vodka can make you drunk if you are able to swallow enough of it.

How do you feel about Cocchi Americano instead of Lillet Blanc? I've heard Cocchi is a good substitute for Lillet Blanc, but I've only ever had the Cocchi, so I wouldn't know how it is otherwise. I've also generally used Regan's instead of Angostura Orange..

Cocchi is supposed to be the closest thing to Kinna Lillet that you can get. I've just found a source for the UK. Good god, I'm already over my alcohol budget this month. This is all wrong. You're a bad influence my friend :)

I've never had Cocchi (although I might in a few days) but Lillet Blanc is such a beautiful drink cold you can drink it on it's own cold like it's mother's milk.

Let me know what you think!

Thanks for that, very interesting reading! I prefer my Martini made with Hendrick's gin and Nolly Pratt, but I've only had it shaken---not stirred.

You heathen! Just kidding, Noilly Prat is a great amber vermouth, you should definitely try Lillet Blanc if you get the chance. Nice Gin choice too, have you ever tried Tanqueray 10? If so, what did you think?

Best to avoid any connection with ice altogether by keeping your spirits in the freezer.

There is nothing more dispiriting that paying over the odds for a cocktail and watching the ghastly wannabe shaking it for half-an-hour with slush so he can fill a 'large glass' with basically water.

Stir or shake is then a matter of choice as to how opalescent you want your drink.

At hypernumbers we only serve cocktails from Schumann's American bar: http://astore.amazon.com/hypernumbersc-20/detail/1558598537

In particular I would recommend a Claridge, stirred and not shaken.

If you are a sloshed geek you might find this engineering schematic of cocktails amusing as well: http://www.scribd.com/doc/27580670/Engineers-Guide-to-Drinks

Really? I've never read American bar although I heard it leaves a lot of common drinks out on the grounds that Schumann didn't like them. I'd also find it strange that you'd limit yourself to drinks prepared for a mock-American bar in Munich.

If you're going to limit what you do, doesn't it makes more sense to limit the menu to IBA cocktails? (I don't know, never ran a bar, know a few who do though).

Also why the Claridge recommendation? Any particular reason? I'm interested to know.

> it leaves a lot of common drinks out on the grounds that Schumann didn't like them

Given that most 'cocktails' I have ever been served in bars are basically 'alcohol disguised as fruit juice' leaving them out is not a bad thing. Essentially if a cocktail has a name like a porn film, don't drink it.

Given that he ran the Cocktail Bar at the Ritz in Paris I think "drinks prepared for a mock-American bar in Munich" is a tad snippy. We Europeans have been drinking strong drinks for a long time.

I recommend Claridges because I like them. Drink of champions.

You're right about my comment, it was a bit snippy. Even so, I find your reference to porno cocktails both understandable and snobbish at the same time. Every time someone asks me to mix them a sex on the beach I die a little inside. In fact I get that with mojitos (if they ask for Bacardi) and Margheritas (with Jose Cuervo) too, so I can't exactly exclude myself from the snobbish end.

Europeans I find don't have the monopoly on strong drinks - the Russians have been outdoing the whole of Europe (including us Brits and Irish) on the mad booze stakes for a while!

Fair enough that you recommend Claridges - I'll have to give it a try. Is it acceptable to use Cointreau instead of something like Grand Marnier for this, or does it have to be a specific triple sec?

The Engineer's Guide to Drinks, non-scribd PDF: http://flowingdata.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Engineers-...

I particularly like Fleming being prescribed bourbon to cut back on his gin consumption.

Reminds me of Nick Charles from the movie The Thin Man: "The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time." :-)

That's precisely where I got the waltz thing from. Good find!

For the TV trivia inclined, there is an episode of West Wing (Stirred Season 3 #18) where the President lectures on it saying JB is ordering a weak drink.

Take with grain of salt, as the series also reports some stories like the whole "NASA Pen/USSR Pencil" story as fact. Fiction tis fiction.

This is definitely ficticious. In the Duke's they'll only serve you two Vespers because of the strength of the drink.

i had thought it was a manifestation of James Bond's personality: assuming the ingredients were mixed on the spot, a stirred drink would have a uniform flavor, while a shaken drink would have a more erratic 'spontaneous' flavor

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