The Perfect Martini Stem “Bowl” Shape!

Have you ever sat there with a Martini comfortably cradled in your hand and wonder what is the optimum bowl shape for a Martini?  Is it a very wide flaring bowl?  A very narrow tall bowl, almost a flute?

stem-wide                 or                         stem-tall

I’m not talking aesthetics here, that is an individual’s preference.  Some people like the crooked stem or the stem that connects at the top of the bowl, and some the bulbous stem.  (I’ve expressed my personal opinion on these in the past:  To Stem or Not to StemThoughts on Stemware, Part Three).  Others like colored glass stemware, especially in the base.

No, I’m thinking more from an engineering point of view.  Is there an optimum geometry to the fundamental inverted cone shape of a Martini stem?  What’s the optimum height?  Cross section?  And how is optimum defined?

stem-geometry      stem-equations

Alright, I’m sure most people never worry about such things.  I guess this is the curse of being an Engineer.  But there is one important consideration that came from my pondering.  From a strictly geometric point of view, what shape will keep my Martini coldest the longest?

The liquid enters the stem at a given temperature, hopefully very well chilled.  Then it gains heat through both the glass of the stem and the surface area of the liquid.  For the sake of my geometric analysis I made a couple of assumptions:
1.  The heat transfer rate is the same between the glass of the stem and the air above the liquid.  This is dependent on assumption 2.   (I am ignoring heat transfer from the drinker’s hands or the bar top through the stem.  I’m also ignoring radiated heat, such as from the lights.)
2.  Any heat transfer from the glass bowl to the liquid would be transferred via the glass from the air surrounding the bowl.   So, in essence all heat enters the Martini from the air, either directly from above or via the glass sides.   (It isn’t strictly true, but that’s another analysis for another day.)
3.  The optimum shape will be that which maximizes the ration of liquid volume (V) to surface area (SA).

Before I jumped into a bunch of algebra, I did a couple of mental experiments so I would know what to expect from the algebra, and if those answers made sense.   If I keep the radius constant and vary the height, how does the volume vary?  How does the surface area vary?  Contrarily, if I keep the height constant and varied the radius, what happens.  While that proved interesting, it really didn’t help  But if you want to see what came out of it, I’ve included a few observations at the very end of this post.

Clearly this was going to be a multi dimensional analysis.  In order to keep the algebra, and potentially calculus, manageable I made one more assumption:
4.  Set the Martini volume to 1.
(It could be anything, since I’m looking for the optimum cone, and cones are proportional, I can scale the volume after I find the best geometry.)

So what’s the answer?  42!  No wait, that’s something else.  The ‘right’ answer for a Martini stem is,  interestingly, 45 degrees.  Specifically, the cone half angle (α) should be 45 degrees.  The full angle is therefore 90 degrees.  To convert that to an appropriately sized stem, lets pick a reasonable bowl height, such as 2 inches.  Then r would also be 2 inches and the diameter of the bowl would be 4 inches.  So what does that geometry look like?  Something like this:

stem-shape-final

Well it turns out that “typical” martini stem we all know and love is actually pretty darn close to optimum shape.  Sure stems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the traditional martini stem is very close to perfect!  Now I just wonder if the manufacturers really designed this for thermodynamic optimization?  Or because is just looks pretty?

 

 

Random thoughts:

If the radius is constant, then the maximum volume to surface area occurs with an infinitely tall Martini “column”.  Not a useful stem, though the Martini volume would be great.  The volume to surface area (V/SA) approaches 1/3 in the extreme.

If the height is constant, then the maximum volume to surface area occurs with an infinitely wide Martini ‘disk’.  Difficult to lift and unwieldy, but again a nice large Martini.   Here the volume to surface area (V/SA) approaches 1/6 in the extreme.

Bar Review: Moshulu, Philadelphia, PA

Mishulu Deck Martini

Or When is a Martini Stem not a martini Stem?

That is my Martini on my most recent visit to Moshulu!

First let me explain a bit about Moshulu.  She is a four-masted steel barque built  in Scotland in 1904 and is the largest remaining original “windjammer”.   Her first runs were shipping grain from Spain to Australia and back.  Later, between 1904 and 1914, she shipped coal from Wales to South America, nitrate from Chile to Germany, coal from Australia to Chile, and coke and patent fuel from Germany to Santa Rosalía, Mexico.

But now she is a floating restaurant docked in Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia.  And a very good restaurant!  The decor is classic nautical.  Well, really, what else would you expect!  There are two ‘floors’ available; the interior main deck with a dining rooms and bar/lounge and the upper, open air though covered, dining area.  Above this is another bar.  The views of the Delaware river, and New Jersey on the opposite shore, are wonderful from almost anywhere on the boat.  Only the tables on the Philadelphia side miss this view.

I’ve eaten here several times over the years and I’m never disappointed.  Whether inside, outside, or at the top bar the experience is wonderful.  It is absolutely a great place for a romantic dinner and drinks. Especially when the weather allows sitting up on the deck.

So what does this all have to do with the Martini photo above!  Yes the photo above is of my served Martini.  As my regular readers knows, I’m a bit old fashioned, if not obsessed, about my stems and I was a bit taken aback when this was presented to me.  I also know from experience that the main level bar serves their Martinis in ‘martini’ stems.  So in my mind I’m wondering ‘What’s up with this?’

Well after an excellent dinner I headed up to the top level bar to witness directly how they made the martini and have a talk with the barkeep.  It turns out that the bar purposely used the brandy stem for all Martinis ‘upstairs’.  Or more specifically ‘in the wind’!

Since this bar is open air and a bit above ground level, its gets a bit breezy.  They have had the unnerving experience of seeing their Martinis served in martini stems being blown over on several occasions.  Turns out that the brandy stem is much more stable in the wind than the martini stem.  As the barkeep advised, “You can have the Martini in the brandy or in your lap”.  Given that choice I chose to enjoy the Martini in the snifter.

As for a Martini Rating, Moshulu gets one stem.  Their Martinis are very good, they’re just not quite good enough to warrant a trip based on their Martini alone.  However I would highly recommend the restaurant as a whole and am looking forward to returning.

Martini Glass Upright

For Gin Selection Watermark gets a TBD.  Unfortunately I didn’t get the details of their entire gin selection.  I know they have the ‘Big 5’: Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray , Tanqueray Ten, Hendricks.  There is also Nolet’s and, being located in Philadelphia, they have Bluecoat.  But I believe there are other selections.  Fortunately this just gives me an excuse to go back and do a bit more research.

An interesting side note; in the top photo, that blurry grey thing in the upper background is the retired battleship USS New Jersey.

For more information on Moshulu:
www.moshulu.com

Moshulu Logo SQ

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Thoughts on Stemware, Part Three

Its been a while since I shared some thoughts on stemware, so here are a few Friday Musings….

Crooked stems?  Split?  Or big sweeping curving stems?  Is there some reason for a crooked/curved/split stem that I’m just not seeing?  Or is this just trendy?

And I’ve already demonized those little squat ugly stems in the past.  (You can find my past stemware comments in the “Stemware” category over on your left.)

What about colored stemware?  I’m partial to clear crystal so I can see what I’m drinking.  Ok, maybe a colored ‘stem’.  I know there’s no difference in taste or thermal affects so maybe I’m just being traditional?

Anyplace that offers a Martini in a plastic stem should be shut down immediately.  Unless you’re on a pool deck of course.

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Not Shaken, Not Stirred?

If the gin is stored in the freezer, the stem is in the freezer, the shaker is in the freezer, and the vermouth is in the refrigerator do I need to shake or stir drink at all?  Why not just put it all together in the stem and add the garnish?

Water: the drink needs to be properly, though slightly, diluted.  One might think this unnecessary since spirits already contain water.  After all 100 proof gin is basically 50% ethanol and 50% water right out of the bottle.  But that extra bit of water from the ice makes a big difference in taste.

To Stem or Not to Stem

Anybody out there like this trend of Martini Stemware without the ‘Stem’?

I’ve noticed a number of places serving my Martinis in glassware that is short, almost stubby, with a bulbous ‘foot’, and no noticeable ‘stem’.  The bowl is still an inverted triangle shape, but that’s about all that remains of the traditional Martini stem we all ‘grew up’ with.

I’m sure it doesn’t change the taste of the drink.  And it may actually keep the drink colder longer … see my past posts about cold stems.  Furthermore, with the lower center of mass it will make the glass less likely to tip over.  Would that be a reason the bar is using them?  Less breakage?

But it just doesn’t seem ‘right’.  Maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist, but I don’t think I like this trend.  Any comments or thoughts?

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What’s the best way to hold the Martini?

What’s the best way to hold the stem to retain maximum Martini coldness?

I use two fingers at the rim.  Is it better to hold the base?  Or the stem itself?

Having my fingers on the rim of the bowl certainly transmits heat to the glass and then the drink.  So physics tells me to hold the base with just a finger and thumb.  That provides the longest heat transfer path to the Martini.

But by design Martini stems are very top heavy and I’d then be concerned about spilling!

Holding the stem between the bowl and base seems to be a good compromise between stability and heat input.   As long as you’re just using a couple of fingers.

For me, discretion is the better part of valor, I’ll take the warming from my finger tips to ensure I don’t loose any of the drink.

Twitter:  @Shkn_Nt_Strrd

Thoughts on Stemware, Part Two

A few more rambling thoughts on “cold” stemware…….

We know that smaller things warm up quickly and larger object warm up more slowly. Specifically objects with larger thermal masses warm up more slowly. Usually, but not always, thermal mass correlates with object mass.

Additionally some materials are thermal insulators, meaning that heat moves slowly through the material (think Styrofoam cups). Some materials are thermal conductors (think copper frying pans).   But restaurants and bars serve Martinis in glass, maybe crystal.    We rarely have the option of asking for ‘good’ stem material.

To maximize the time of coldness, I want a Martini with a large thermal mass. But most bars will not give you a pint of Martini. They have one, maybe two, sizes of stems and they pour measured amounts of gin and vermouth. The only other variable is the stem itself.  So make mine the largest most massive piece of glass, or lead crystal, available.