Shaken or Stirred? – Once and for all!

Ok, once and for all: the Martini or (Martini Cocktail, to avoid any confusion, see below) has to be stirred, not shaken.

There, I said it. Forget all those Smirnoff ads, forget what people say about James Bond “and he would know it, right?”. There’s no two ways about it.

But how did that myth come to existence that a Martini can or even should be shaken? Stick with me for some history lesson about the world of bars and drinks…

1. The History of the Martini

Lore has it that the father – or grandfather – of the drink we today know as a Martini was a bartender named Marinez, who sometime in the late 19th century first created that drink.

Next to the two main ingredients of the classic martini still used today – gin and vermouth – those early recipes would also include other components: bitters (most probably Angostura) and sometimes even Orange Curacao. Even the garnish today accepted as “traditional” – the olive – was reportedly back then replaced by a stemless cherry.

It’s also important to note that even those basic ingredients differed from what we have today: the gin in use was Old Tom sweet (!) gin, and the vermouth used was a sweet (perhaps red) one.

Other stories see as the birthplace and source of the name alternatingly the town of Martinez (Californa) and the Martini & Henry rifle of the British army. All of those stories do however share one fact: there is never a reference to a shaken Martini. Anywhere.

2. Science

Some people do not like to accept things just the way they are “just because it has been done that way forever”. So for you, here’s some sort of scientific wisdom on the topic.

The interaction of one of the main ingredients, namely vermouth, with oxygen in the air will lead to an unpleasant bitter aroma of the vermouth. For that reason, it is not advisable to shake any drink which includes vermouth (like, e.g., a Bronx or a Negroni) – unless you like that unpleasant taste. Just in case, you may try it.

3. But James Bond…

This may be the most-heard argument towards the shaken Martini, so let’s address this some more: agents of the shaking theory quote James Bond, more specifically his appearance in the first Bond novel, “Casino Royale”, where he specifically orders a shaken Martini. Fortunately, that novel has been turned into a movie (again) a while back, so let’s just check out the evidence:

Yes, Bond instructs the waiter specifically to shake the drink, but let’s look at that scene in detail:

Bond first orders a “dry martini”, then, as the waiter is about to leave, he calls him back, obviously because he changed his mind, and gives him the recipe for an entirely different drink – which, as it doesn’t have vermouth in it (rather Lillet Blanc, another kind of French aromated liqour wine) neither is a Martini nor does fall under the “never shake vermouth drinks” rule.

As a sidenote, the Lillet is not used a lot in famous cocktail recipes – but if you’ve never encountered it before, you must under all circumstances check out the Corpse Reviver #2!

The fact that the Smirnoff company, in a huge marketing campaign in the USA during the 60s, would (with considerable success) try to replace gin with vodka as the #1 short drink liquor and all the while would publish kinda-Martini recipes which included shaking does not really help this argument: Smirnoff’s campaign wasn’t about taste or the art of mixing, it was abouth vodka as a lifestile accessory, and for that, a shaken drink (due to its optical appeal) just worked better than a (stirred) Martini.

4. So how to make a Martini?

Put a Martini glass in the fridge. Get some ice cubes ready. Obtain a high-quality dry gin (recommendation: Taqueray #10 or Hendrick’s Dry Gin) and a high-quality dry vermouth (again a recommendation: Noilly Pratt). Put ice cubes in a mixing glass, add 5cl of gin and 1cl of vermouth. Stir, then strain into the Martini glass. Garnish with an olive. Done!

5. What about the Vodka variant?

See above for the Smirnoff marketing campaign. If you really insist on a vodka-based Martini, I suggest going for some high-quality vodka as well (and Smirnoff is not one of them – try Xellent from Switzerland) and replacing the olive with a lemon peel.

6. What happened to those other variants?

There’s countless ones – have two parts of gin and one part of sweet white vermouth for a Sweet Martini. Replace the white vermouth with red one in that for a Raquet Club Marini. Swivel the mixing glass with some brine from the olives beforehand for a Dirty Martini…etcetc. I leave it to you to check out the great big internet – or use your own inspiration!

7. What’s that stuff in bottles called “Martini”

Martini e Rossi” is an Italian company which makes, among other things, Italian vermouth.

8. I don’t believe you!

Ok, ask Charles Schumann, greatest living authority on rum drinks, barkeeper, author of the bible of cocktails “American Bar” and inventor of such famous drinks as the Swimming Pool.

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