Shaken or stirred? The great Martini debate

It’s a friendly argument, but a topic for endless debate among Martini fans. Should a Martini be shaken or stirred? Like Bond, I prefer my Martinis shaken, but there’s always someone who insists that stirred is really the best way. They’re wrong, of course, but they still insist. And yes, I do know that technically, a shaken cocktail isn’t a Martini, it’s a Bradford. I just don’t care. Hey, considering what else gets called a martini these days, let’s not quibble about semantics, OK?

I’ve put a lot of thought into this, by the way. And research. Yes, there really is research about whether a martini should be shaken or stirred.

Should a Martini be Shaken or Stirred?

Thanks to James Bond, the phrase “shaken, not stirred” is famous, and for many martini fans, Bond’s word is law. Bond never explained why he wanted his martinis shaken, but a hint is Bond’s comment that his martini should be ice cold. Shaken cocktails do tend to be colder, since the drink makes more contact with the ice for a longer period. Or maybe the 1950s Bond was trying to cope with the potato vodka that was the most common at the time – potato vodka is oily, and the oil is more dispersed if the martini is shaken. (This theory makes a lot of sense when you also consider that Bond expressed a preference for grain vodka over potato vodka.)

Science even gives us a healthy reason to shake. Believe it or not, the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario studied how a martini’s preparation affects its anti-oxident capacity. Yes, really. Shaking a gin martini breaks down hydrogen peroxide better, leaving only 0.072% peroxide behind, compared to 0.157% in a stirred martini.

But many martini fans are horrified at the thought of shaking a martini. Connoisseurs of the gin martini say that shaking bruises the gin and makes it taste bitter. And shaking a martini does make it cloudier; shaking a cocktail creates small ice fragments in the drink.

And while James Bond suggests shaken martinis, stirred martinis also have their pop culture idol, President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet of The West Wing. According to Bartlet, Bond orders weak martinis. In one episode, Bartlet tells Charlie Young,”Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.”

The debate over whether to shake or to stir is likely to continue, but in the end, it’s still a matter of personal preference. Or maybe for the majority of martini fans, a matter of no preference. In that instance, perhaps they would prefer to quote Daniel Craig’s Bond in Casino Royale (2006). When his Bond was asked whether the cocktail should be shaken or stirred, Craig’s reply is, “Do I look like I give a damn?”

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