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back to article Dry martini, shaken not stirred: Cracking the physics of Bond's martini

"A distressingly large amount of rubbish is talked about cocktails," Noel Jackson, top boffin at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, tells The Reg. You know, that's not half bad. I'm going to have to think up a name for that Jackson, a Cambridge-University-educated chemist, has all the straight-up science on …

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Churchill's recipe

Shake the cork from the vermouth over a glass of gin.

Drink.

No fuss, no bother, no taste buds left.

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Re: Churchill's recipe

That's way too sweet. Call your barman pal in Singapore and ask him to hold a vermouth bottle up to the phone.

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Re: Churchill's recipe

I thought Churchill said something like you should pour your gin, then open the vermouth and bow towards France. At which point it's ready to drink.

My brother even times the shaking of the cocktail. Shake a few seconds too long, and your drink gets too watered down, so you want the maximum amount of chilling, for the minimum amount of water. Myself I don't really get Martini. I'd rather have a decent scotch (Balvenie at the moment), and if you bring ice anywhere near that it's Glasgow kisses all round.

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Scientists is it

It was them jokers that came up with the Chorleywood process which gave us poor benighted Brits the sh**tiest bread on the planet. Keep them away from our hooch!

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Oh, you, silly

It's not the liquid that is said to be getting bruised - it's the ice!

When a cocktail is shaken the ice crumbles, so the higher contact surface means more ice melts into the drink and it becomes more dilute. You can try it yourself and you will easily taste the difference.

Mythbusters have tested it (and unlike some of their tests this one was convincing) and also confirmed it to be the case.

P.S. Proper Martini must be made with gin. Vodka is for those lacking taste and drinking just to get plastered. Vodka must be drunk in a particular way with particular food, both are unknown in the West :-)

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Re: Oh, you, silly

"Vodka must be drunk in a particular way " = neat. You don't mix good vodka

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Re: Oh, you, silly

And a decent "proof"/vol from the freezer

("red" gives you ice chips "blue / black" a nice syrupy consistency)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh, you, silly

"Vodka is for those lacking taste and drinking just to get plastered." coming from someone with a Russian-sounding name? All my stereotypes are breaking!

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Re: Oh, you, silly

My one visit to Ukraine informed me that in Slavic countries, bottles are not made to be opened and then closed once more. Open a bottle, empty a bottle was the rule.

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Do you expect me to drink this?

No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die...

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Shaken vs Stirred

There is quite a difference in how the drink finishes whether you shake or stir it. When stirred the drink is perfectly clear, when shaken it has a sparkle to it caused, I understand, by tiny fragments of ice. Some of the high end cocktail bars I've been to prefer stirring – I usually ask for it how it comes and watch them make it. There probably is a difference in taste, but I'd say they are just a little different to each other.

Quinnine is available as a poweder that can be added to try and recreate the trueVesper. Not tried this personally.

I don't recommend you use the Martini brand, Dolin or Noilly Prat are readily available and are superb, costing very little more and as you use so little cost is not that important.

My recipie is to take a large 350ml martini glass and fill it with ice and leave to stand for a minute. Put three shots of spirit** in the shaker, add ¼ – ½ shot vermouth then pour in the ice from the glass. Put the lid on and shake like buggery until the shaker is ice cold a frosted. Carefully strain into the glass. Take 1” of thin lemon peel, twist over the glass and drop it in.

Enjoy and repeat until the world is too blurry to make another one.

** Gordons is great, as it Tanquary Ten. Some people like Plymoth, it's a bolder flavour.

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Re: Shaken vs Stirred

The Botanist (Islay Gin :) has blown away every other gin for me. The problem is, it has such a good flavour it's a shame to mix it with anything.

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@bitmap animal

You had me until "Gordons is great". No, no, no, no, no. It is Budweiser* to other gins' real ale. Plymouth, or the wonderful Sipsmiths for me.

*The American one, or Buttwiper, as it should be known. How on earth can you remove so much flavour from a beer?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @bitmap animal

Sipsmith, Tanqueray T10, Bombay Sapphire. Gordon's is acceptable, it's better than Beefeaters.

:-)

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Re: @bitmap animal

In hindsight, "Gordon's is great" wasn't the best way of putting it. It's not a top gin but is usually underrated as "just Gordon's" but is better than that especially given the special offers at supermarkets. Bombay Sapphire is one that I think is overrated.

I've not tried the Sipsmith gin, I've had their vodka and that was OK but will get some of their gin to try shortly.

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Re: @bitmap animal

Sipsmiths or Hendricks for me - although I could see Hendricks not working so well mixed - but never had it like that....

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Re: @bitmap animal

@ FartingHippo "The American one, or Buttwiper, as it should be known. How on earth can you remove so much flavour from a beer?"

You remove grain and add sugar. Same alchohol content, less taste. Cost cutting has been making it even worse by In Bev. Luckily there has been a craft beer explosion recently in America because people actually got fed up with that garbage and started looking for something with taste. Me? I brew my own so I don't have to worry either way. Cheers!

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Re: Shaken vs Stirred

Hendricks for a G+T, but never in a martini, it's just too 'soft' in flavour. I'd personally recommend 6 O'Clock gin (if you can find it), and the following method - 3 parts gin to 1/4 part vermouth (lillet blanc if you can get it, otherwise noilly prat). Chill the glass with ice and water, pouring this out immediately before pouring the martini in. Pre-chill the shaker in the freezer (which is why it important to use a steel shaker, never plastic), add fresh ice to the shaker, and add the gin/vermouth. Swirl until cooled throughout and serve with either a twist of lemon peel or green cocktail olives to taste... Repeat, rinse, fall over...

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Re: @bitmap animal

There's a song that has a refrain: "put that Budweiser back in the Clydesdale." I've always thought it appropriate, but then I live on the west coast and there are some very fine ales and first class hops produced.

For the hard stuff I prefer a single malt scotch, neat.

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Re: @bitmap animal

I bought a bottle of Sipsmith gin yesterday.

3 shots Sipsmith, 1 shot Chase vodka, 1/2 shot Noilly Prat shaken to death with ice into a chilled Martini glass with a lemon twist. Marvellous.

Thanks for the suggestion, what a fantastic drink it makes, great flavours. Not tried it as a G&T yet, that'll be tonight probably.

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Haven't watched the Daniel Craig bond films

But I did see a clip where Daniel Craig said "Do I look like I give a damn?" to the question about his drink - mentioned in this article too - and that made me wonder what went wrong in the world of Bond. He needs to ooze class..

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Re: Haven't watched the Daniel Craig bond films

He was having a bad day at the time and was pondering getting shitfaced.

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Anonymous Coward

For me...

..it has to be Sapphire over Gordon's any day...

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So much nonsense

" Ice is also vital for one other factor: melting water produces the infusion of unattached H2O that snips open the esters."

What do you think is the other 60% in a drink that is 40% alcohol? Yes, indeed, mostly water. Oh, I see, that water is already "attached", so not available for interaction with esters. Attached to what exactly? This is probably related to the next bit of bullshit:

"there may anyway be perceptible differences between apparently identical alcohol/water solutions, which can nonetheless be different one from another in the way the water arranges itself molecularly around the alcohol"

Scientists that state that probably also believe in homoeopathy. Homoeopathy is also supposedly all about ordering water.

"neat or almost-neat spirits are hard to drink at room temperature and chilling keeps the alcohol cold until it hits your esophagus, where it starts to evaporate, making it easier to drink."

And exactly how much alcohol will evaporate in the half second the drink is in my oesophagus and has not even assumed body temperature yet, coming from a few degrees above zero? And how will that make it easier to drink? Will it start to bubble? Form a froth?

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Boffin

Re: So much nonsense

"there may anyway be perceptible differences between apparently identical alcohol/water solutions, which can nonetheless be different one from another in the way the water arranges itself molecularly around the alcohol"

Scientists that state that probably also believe in homoeopathy. Homoeopathy is also supposedly all about ordering water.

--

Not quite true - Homeopathy is about water retaining that shape after the contaminant has been removed.

This is about the way molecules arrange themselves around a contaminant that was (at some point) introduced, and remains in the liquid.

Personally I'd have thought that and differences in packing (which there could well be) wouldn't be thermally stable.

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Re: So much nonsense

I'm rather inclined to agree with you about the water already in there. There *may* be some shift in the ester <-> acid equilibrium as more water is added but I drink so fast I'd never notice esp. at ice temperatures.

The 'ordered water' does sound like nonesense.

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Re: So much nonsense

Water does arrange itself around solute. Water molecules are dipoles and that also partly explains why water is such a good solvent. However, the thing is that it will always arrange itself in the same way around the same solute - so any possible taste differences due to that are pure fiction.

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Mushroom

Re: So much nonsense

"Scientists that state that probably also believe in homoeopathy. Homoeopathy is also supposedly all about ordering water."

Don't be so dismissive. Water is far more complicated than you think it is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Properties_of_water

There are more than a dozen molecularly differing types of ice, too.

"And exactly how much alcohol will evaporate in the half second the drink is in my oesophagus and has not even assumed body temperature yet, coming from a few degrees above zero? And how will that make it easier to drink?

Enough to taste the difference. You could always TEST it by trying it, rather than deriding it. Any vodka drinker will tell you that it tastes far smoother straight from the freezer. Ice always makes harsh spirits smoother-tasting.

In short, you've just shot your mouth off about something that you're not an expert about, based on an overly-simplistic view of chemistry. Just MAYBE the professional bartender and physics professional know more than you about this. Christ: You clearly haven't even necked ice-cold vodka on a regular basis and you're off on one!

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Re: So much nonsense

No all nonsense; alcohol-water mixtures do things which a simple mixture will not do. For a start, mixing water and alcohol actually gets the mixture slightly warm, and the volume shrinks slightly as the alcohol forces the water molecules to reduce the amount of hydrogen bonding they exhibit, and form a denser liquid. This may be important for flavour, especially around and just below zero celcius (adding an alcohol to water depresses the freezing point); water is densest at four celcius and as it cools below this starts to become more ordered, more crystaline and less dense whilst still being a liquid.

Ice crystals form differently in even weak solutions of alcohol in water than they do in pure water; when preparing an aqueous sample for freeze drying, the normal procedure was to add some alcohol to it (about 5% or thereabouts) then leave it overnight in the -80 freezer. Try that with pure water, and you have a broken glass bottle next morning. Use alcohol, and the crystal structure changes, and the mix freezes differently and doesn't break the bottle.

Another thing that adding an alcohol to water does is it forces any dissolved gas in the water and in the alcohol to come out of solution. When you are (as I was) mixing alcohol-water solutions for use in HPLC chromatographs, you want the solvent to be as gas-free as possible, or you'll see gas bubbles forming as the separated chemicals come off the column and exit through the absorbance meter. This causes annoying spikes in the output trace, completely ruining the results, so I always used to degas my solvents before use; I doubt a bar would do this, so gasses and volatiles being forced out of solution by the addition of water from ice in a cocktail might well alter the flavour significantly.

Finally, it is wise to remember just what drinking a cocktail actually entails. What you're doing when you take a sip of the liquid is introducing a mixture of water, alcohols and organic compounds that is currently at about zero celcius to an environment with quite a bit of water in it (saliva and so on) which is at thirty seven celcius. This will rapidly warm the cocktail liquid up, changing the molecular arrangement of water and alcohol molecules and causing a lot of the organics to rapidly boil off. The dilution of the mixture in saliva will make the mix a much less good solvent for hydrophobic organic molecules such as fruit oils and so on, which will come out of solution and either sit there as oils or boil off.

The primary sensing system that contributes to our sense of taste is not actually water-phase tasting at all, but gas-phase smell in our noses. So, the amount of volatiles that vapourise when a cocktail is sipped determine a lot of the flavour we perceive; in turn this is determined by the temperature, alcohol concentration and initial strength of the cocktail as a solvent. pH also plays a part; if the flavoursome molecules are weak organic acids or bases, then if the cocktail is more or less neutral pH then these will exist in solution in both the associated molecular state and the dissassociated state. In chromatography this sort of state causes band-spreading so the pH is normally modified with an acid such as a weak solution of phosphoric acid, or an ionisation supressor like trifluoroacetic acid or similar mixtures.

If the person's mouth is a different pH to the cocktail, this will obviously also affect the flavour.

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Re: So much nonsense

Well part of the reason for that is that the cold numbs your taste buds so you can't taste most of it.

Try this experiment: Take two cans of Red Bull. Chill one and leave the other at room temperature.

Take a drink from the chilled one. Take a drink from the room temperature one... once you've finished grimacing, note the complete difference in taste experience.

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Re: So much nonsense

"Enough to taste the difference. You could always TEST it by trying it, rather than deriding it. Any vodka drinker will tell you that it tastes far smoother straight from the freezer. Ice always makes harsh spirits smoother-tasting. "

Read again. Where am I saying there is no difference? I am just disagreeing with the offered explanation for the difference. As a pharmacist, I actually do have knowledge of both (physical) chemistry and physiology.

And assuming I don't drink without even knowing the first thing about it is just preposterous.

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Did you read? [was Re: So much nonsense

Did you actually read the linked article about the ~*strictly temporary and dynamic* structures within ethanol/water solutions?

I didn' find it unfeasible, and its certainly a country mile away from the magic memory favoured by homeopathy. I am sort of suprised I haven't seen the aqua pura /calcium carbonate vendors quoting the study though.

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Re: Did you read? [was So much nonsense

And how is this going to influence taste, when taste is mostly the interaction of volatile organic compounds (not being ethanol) with protein receptors embedded in a lipid membrane in the nasal cavities?

What does that have to do with how water is ordered around ethanol in a glass?

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Re: Did you read? [was So much nonsense

So you still haven't read it?

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Boffin

Re: So much nonsense

@Boldman

An interesting theory. Unfortunately, your taste buds aren't what does the tasting of a martini (red bull, which is mostly sugar is another matter). The volatile organic compounds are 'tasted' by the smell receptors in your nasal cavity. In the case of a martini, the chilling prevents these from evaporating before they get to your mouth. Limiting the amount of water, by keeping the mixture below zero centrigrade (which also slows doen the kinetics of the reactions) is what prevents them from being broken down in the mixing stage.

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Re: So much nonsense

It is true that tasting (and more generally perception) is the important thing. However, the parts that are bullshit are still bullshit even though they're trying to explain something noticed by tasting. It's as rational as saying "A wizard did it.". Complex hydrocarbons change back and forth between many things when you are dealing with factors such as two very different solvents (water, alcohol), one of which is right at the phase change point, and you're throwing different kinds of agitation into the picture, especially if you end up with even a little sugars into the mix, such as would be likely to ride in on a barreled spirit, a vermouth, etc.

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Re: Did you read? [was So much nonsense

Yes, I read it. Low on science, high on speculation.

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Sod that

Anyone for a beer?

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Anonymous Coward

Lillet

May I be the first to say how little I want a lillet in my drink, used or otherwise.

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Coat

Re: Lillet

How else do you make a bloody mary?

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Re: Lillet

It seems you're suggesting making a bloody mary from, well, a bloody Mary.

Nice.

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Stirred!

Shaking vs stirring completely alters the flavour due to increased oxidation. Think about decanting red wine (or letting it breath after opening) and you can understand this effect. At the end of the day it is all personal preference - but the flavours are very different.

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On Martinis

There's a whole spectrum of drinks that follow the basic Martini recipe. Hard booze plus vermouth of some sort. Rob Roy is scotch and sweet (ie, red vermouth), Manhattan is bourbon (or is it rye?) plus Red V, Gin and French is equal parts gin plus white vermouth (Queen Mum's favourite apparently) Gin and Italian and so on and on.

My favourite is the Bentley (from the 20s). Two parts Calvados one part red (but French, best is Dubonnet) vermouth, shaken not stirred, lemon zest twisted over it (and ir should be run around the rim of the glass too).

Has the most amazing aroma of the sweetest, juciest, apple your mind has ever imagined.

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Pint

SICK WIERDOS!

Make martinis etc with GIN. Preferably with Oxley gin, and only vaguely muddled with ice. With a sealed bottle of vermouth in a cupboard nearby. I prefer a cocktail onion in mine.

Incidentally, at the Fountain Bleu in Miami, they have a signature cocktail which is basically a martini (gin) with three olives stuffed with blue cheese. Absolutely fantastic!

Can we have a martini glass icon please?

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Facepalm

Re: SICK WIERDOS!

I'm surprised they don't chuck half a dozen bacon rashers on top as well. And a pineapple ring.

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Damn, where to start

1. All that macho bullshit about super dry martinis where the shaker is waved at the vermouth is just that, macho bullshit. If you want to drink frozen gin shooters, go ahead. Just don't call them Martinis.

2. Yes, Gordon's is cheap rubbish, but Bombay Sapphire is moderately expensive rubbish. It's more like a flavoured vodka than a properly flavoured gin. That doesn't matter in a Gin and Tonic which is actually more about the quality of the tonic[1] than the gin.

3. Martinis should be completely clear. That's the biggest reason for stirring not shaking, and for using quality clear ice.

4. Dirty Martinis are an abomination. I'm all for the olive taste and tiny addition of salt but swamping all that effort to create elegant flavours in the gin and vermouth with sea water is just silly.

5. One Martini is just right, two's too many and three's not enough. The other bit of related life wisdom, "count your martinis and punt".

6. Match elegant gins (Miller's, Sacred, Adnams) with Noilly Prat. Match more aggressive gins (Beefeater 24, Tanquaray) with a more aggressive vermouth like Vya.

My favourite. 60ml Gin, 10ml Vermouth, stirred in ice for 40 secs, served in a Martini glass from the freezer. Two briefly washed olives from a fresh jar of olives in brine on a cocktail stick. Current favourite gin, Sacred with Adnams a close second. As far as I can tell, all the London and UK boutique straight gins are excellent. Explore!

What about the Vesper? Well Lillet Blanc is interesting. All that vodka will dilute the unpleasant taste of the Gordons. And the lemon probably goes well with the Lillet. So why not. But I'd be more interested in exploring the lillet-gin corner of (non-euclidian) mathematical martini space.

[1] 1724 is the best tonic by some way with Fevertree an acceptable alternative. Avoid Schweppes and especially avoid tonic from a mixer dispensing gun.

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JDX
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Re: Damn, where to start

And there I was thinking it was about drinking something you liked the taste of, rather than bowing to some pretentious idiot's snobbery on 'right and wrong'.

It's booze. Not holy sacrament.

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Pint

Re: Damn, where to start

"5. One Martini is just right, two's too many and three's not enough. The other bit of related life wisdom, "count your martinis and punt"."

Divers are of course familiar with Martini's Law: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Martini's+law

That is: Nitrogen Narcosis' effects can be roughly and jokingly compared to one Martini per 50' below 100'.

My diving books don't however specify the type of gin used, or if one should skip the olive.

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Re: Damn, where to start

So basically what it is saying is that 4 Martinis are incapacitating...

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