Shaken or Stirred. Unless You’re James Bond, Does it Matter?

Probably one of the fussiest drinkers in fiction is James Bond, who is cool, but in real life would be every bartender’s nightmare. He orders precise measurements, required garnish, and martinis are always shaken, not stirred. What I have observed though, is that a good bartender likes to make a martini his own way, with only minimal direction.

I’ve seen bartenders fond of making what I call a “Churchill martini,” which is essentially a glass of cold gin. Winston Churchill of course, was famous for saying “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.” Ernest Hemingway was fond of ordering a “Montgomery,” which is a martini with 15 parts gin and 1 part vermouth.

I prefer to just ask the bartender for a “Bombay martini,” and let him or her do the rest, although if they have blue cheese stuffed olives behind the bar, I will request those, as they make a very nice addition to the drink. If I am making it myself, it’s four parts gin (either Bombay Sapphire if I’m in the mood for London dry, or Distillery 209 from San Francisco for American craft gin), one part vermouth, shaken with ice, served in a martini glass with a couple of those delicious blue cheese olives on a skewer.

Whether you want a Bond martini, a Churchill martini, a Montgomery martini, or just a plain, ordinary martini, let’s get one thing straight. An appletini is not a martini. I will grudgingly accept vodka variants but once you start adding sweeteners and fruit, it’s no longer a martini. Just because you add “tini” to the end of a random fruity drink doesn’t make it a martini.

But let’s go beyond the catchphrases for a moment. Bond orders them “shaken, not stirred,” and after all, what man doesn’t want to be like James Bond? It has however, stirred up something of a controversy among martini purists, some of whom insist that shaking “bruises” the gin. Now that’s just pure silliness – you can’t bruise booze.

Four things will happen however, when you shake a martini: It will become temporarily cloudy when it is first served out of the shaker, the drink will get cold, and some of the ice will melt in the drink. The fourth thing that will happen of course, is that you will look very cool as you stand behind the bar in your den with your cocktail shaker.

The cloudiness is purely aesthetic and doesn’t affect the taste. Cold generally, is good, but it’s a judgment call, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a room temperature martini. And what about the melted ice? Certainly, it dilutes the alcohol content, which depending on your immediate goal, may be a good thing. Also, if you’re using bottom-shelf gin, a little melted icewater is going to take the edge off the piney taste that some of the cheaper gins are known for.

Unless you are Winston Churchill however, the ratio of gin to vermouth should be about 4:1 or 5:1.

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