Shaken, Not Stirred: Why James Bond is Wrong About His Martinis
Photo: EON Productions
He’s got the coolest gadgets, a license to kill and… terrible taste in martinis? A frequent refrain in the Bond franchise (over the course of 14 Ian Fleming novels and 26 live action productions) is that our eponymous hero prefers his martinis shaken, not stirred. Consequently, everyone who’s ever seen Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore or Daniel Craig order a drink on the silver screen thinks they know how martinis should be served.
Bartenders everywhere vehemently disagree. According to mixology conventions, martinis are meant to be stirred instead of shaken and all bartenders should do so unless a British secret agent with a glint in his eye and a Walther in his holster specifically requests otherwise.
For those of us who aren’t James Bond, here’s why you shouldn’t shake your martinis.
It Dilutes the Drink
Vigorous shaking causes bits of ice become chipped off and mixed into the liquor, watering down the ingredients to reduce the potency of the drink instead of simply allowing the ice to cool the drink while stirred slowly. The results is watered-down cocktail that might be useful if you’re expecting a fight against assassins or an impromptu car chase, but not if you’re looking for a robust, stiff drink.
It Ruins the Classic Aesthetic
We all know what a martini’s meant to look like – a clear liquid garnished with olives. It’s a classic drink that’s been around for half a century and has spawned hundreds of diverse variations while retaining an air of stoic simplicity. Many bartenders believe that cocktails with clear ingredients should be stirred so that the cocktail remains transparent, yet the proliferation of the phrase “shaken, not stirred” has resulted in many a martini becoming a cloudy swirl of gin and vermouth. Ironically, 007 has rarely, if ever, been portrayed drinking a cloudy drink on screen so perhaps his bartenders ignored his order in favour of a gorgeous, unblemished cocktail.
It Destroys the Texture
A crucial difference between a stirred and shaken martini is the texture. Shaking a martini aerates the liquids, creating a thicker, frothier texture that most connoisseurs detest. Instead, martinis tend be precisely and methodically stirred so as to lend it a smoother consistency on the tongue.
It Bruises the Gin
Bond likes a vodka martini as much as the next man (from U.N.C.L.E., presumably) but he’s not adverse to a little gin being mixed in his original Vesper recipe. Choosing to have his drink shaken instead of stirred might bruise the gin, however, resulting in a bitter taste that could ruin a martini as quickly as Goldfinger can irradiate a Fort Knox gold depository.
It Might Be Too Cold
Both stirring and shaking gets your martini to the nice, chilly temperature it should be served at (never let your martini get warm), but when shaken, the cocktail is chilled within 10 to 20 seconds – an efficient method for an efficient man like James Bond. However, when a martini is stirred it takes over a minute to drop to an appropriate temperature, giving the bartender control over the coolness of the martini so he can tailor its frostiness to your personal preference.
When’s all said and done, however, we must say that there’s no definitive “right” to make a martini. And pretty much any bartender would tell you that if Daniel Craig walked into their watering hole and ordered a Vesper like he did in Casino Royale, they’d shake the hell out of that martini. If James Bond can drink his martini however he likes, so can you.
Shake it, stir it, throw it; rest assured, you’ve got a License to Thrill your taste buds in any way you please.
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