The Perfect Martini: Shaken or Stirred?

Shaken or Stirred?    Which is “Perfect”?

One of the eternal Martini questions!  Right up there with Dickens …. Olive or Twist?

I have written extensively in the past about Shaken vs. Stirred Martinis and thought a reminder might be appropriate for some of the newer readers, in case you missed it before.

There are four claimed differences between shaken and stirred martinis; temperature, dilution, “bruising”, and taste.  I’ve written extensively in the past on each of these and if you’re interested you can jump to the details via the links at the bottom of this article.

The bottom line is this:  The Shaken Martini will colder, more diluted, emulsified , and taste exactly the same.  Conversely the Stirred Martini will be less cold (hopefully not ‘warmer’), stronger, silky smooth, and taste exactly the same.

Notice that I’ve changed ‘bruising’ to ’emulsification’.  The term ‘bruising’ is really a misnomer and anyone using it should be ostracized immediately.  But shaking the drink does adds a zillion (roughly) little bubbles, also known to as emulsification.  This gives the drink a slightly cloudy appearance and changes the way it feels in your mouth.

So which is “Perfect”?   Read my Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Conclusion for all the intimate details and opinions.  (Disclaimer:  Its a tie.)

You can also jump to an overview of each of four elements at:
Temperature             Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature
Dilution                       Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Dilution
Bruising                      Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Bruising
Taste                           Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste


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Alcohol Diet!

Alcohol diet?  Is that a real thing?  Well, no, not really.  But it offers a starting point to think about our diet, and Martini, choices.

If you’re like most of us you’re probably ‘counting’ calories in one form or another.  Not necessarily keeping a daily diary of everything you eat, but most of us are aware that it takes 24 minutes of brisk walking to burn off the calories in one can of coke.   And an hour and 10 minutes to burn off the calories in one slice of pizza and a can of coke.

Each of us has our own idea of weight, exercise, and food balance. And we all make choices.  That’s true in our choices for adult beverages.

The standard 1.5 oz serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories before you add any mixers.  Bombay Sapphire is 97 proof and has 114 calories.   So a dry martini would have approximately 100 calories, depending on Gin, number of olives (5 calories each, if that’s your choice), and whether its ‘wet’ or ‘dry’.

Comparing to other cocktails:  Gin & Tonic 187, Mai Tai 306, Pina Colada 320, Margarita 327, Rum & Coke 361, Mudslide 820

And how many calories in desert?  Chocolate Cake without frosting: about 352 , 1/2 cup Ice Cream 137 , 1/2 cup Chocolate Mousse 454 , and Creme Brulee 210.

So if you’re counting calories which would you pick?  Cake or Martini?  My choice is clear; I haven’t had dessert in a long long time.


The calorie numbers above are taken from various internet sources and are representative and for comparison purposes & humor.

ALWAYS Drink responsibly.
We do NOT endorse excessive alcohol consumption.
Know the law, know your limits: drink to the lesser of the two.

Thermal Flow Thoughts – Keeping the Martini Cold!

We mentioned thermal flow several times as part of discussions on keeping a drink cold.  So I started wondering exactly what are the typical thermal paths for a Martini?

First lets understand that cold doesn’t exist, there is only the absence of heat.  Heat flows from warm to cold… or from cold to colder.  So to make a Martini cold you pull heat out of the fluid by using something colder; using cold ice when we shake (or stir) the Martini.   We sometimes think its the other way around, so some of my comments below may seem backward.

So heat flows to warm your Martini, or other cocktail, in the following ways:
From the air, through the glass bowl, and into the liquid.
From the counter, table, or bar top into the stem and then up into the liquid.
When being held, through the fingers or hand into the glass and then into the drink.   (Note that heat flow is inversely proportional to length, i.e., heat flows less, or slower, through a longer path.  A tall stem will conduct less heat up through the glass into the Martini that a short squat, bulbous stem.)

So where does most of this drink warming heat come from?  Without doing a complete thermodynamic model (I’ve thought about it), it seems pretty clear that it is from the surrounding air.

The thermal path up through the table is limited by a long thin stem.  Heat from the hand is temporary, assuming your not holding the stem constantly.  (See: “What’s the best way to hold the Martini?” for previous comments on how to hold your Martini.)  Which leaves the air which is constantly in contact with the bowl of the Martini, as the significant culprit warming your martini.

So what’s the best solution?  Other than moving to the Arctic or Antarctic, drinking in the freezer!  Kidding aside, I’m stumped on this one.  Surely drinking in an air conditioned bar will keep your drink colder than outside in the sun.   But having a nice Martini on a deck over looking the beach is just marvelous.

Here are a couple suggestions to consider:
Hold the stem as little as possible and by the rim or stem of the glass,
Use a coaster; its a thermal insulator and will minimize heat flow up through the stem,
Keep the drink in the shade if you’re outside.  No need adding the sun’s warmth to the liquid,
Use a Martini ‘coozie’???

OMG, did I really say that?  Sacrilegious!  I’ll suffer penance with a cold Martini….

Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Conclusion.

Over the past several weeks I’ve waxed poetic on the differences between Shaken Martinis and Stirred Martinis.    We’ve talked about Temperature, Dilution, Bruising, and Taste.  So what is the combined consensus conclusion?

Lets review the score:
Temperature – Draw                                                   Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature
Dilution – Stirring                                                         Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Dilution
Bruising – Draw                                                            Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Bruising
Taste – Draw                                                                 Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste

Overall Advantage:  Your call.

Here’s the bottom line.   I like my martinis cold.  I like them with Bombay Sapphire.  You may like yours at a milder temperature with Hendrick’s or Nolet’s or any other fine Gin.  The taste difference between my Cold Bombay Sapphire and your ‘cool’ Nolet’s far eclipses any differences of taste that may, or may not, occur from Shaking or Stirring.

I can hear the screams among you…. “A cope out”,  “I need an answer”,  “I can’t stand the ambiguity”,  “Tell me what to think”, …

Really?    I have said from the beginning that your “Perfect Martini” may not be the same as my “Perfect Martini”.   It’s sort of like that metaphysical philosophical Tao ‘find your own beach’ thing that someone does on TV.  😀

I hope to educate, elaborate,  and engross; to amuse and delight; and, hopefully, perhaps start a discussion or even a bit of controversy.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.  I’d love to hear what you have to say.


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Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste

We’ve finally come to the final, and probably most important, contentious, and difficult edition of Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste.  Does Shaking change the taste of the Martini?

I’ve been scratching my head trying to develop an effective and simple taste test for Shaken vs. Stirred: Taste while eliminating the differences due to temperature, dilution, and ‘bruising’.  Recall that for this article we consider bruising to be the emulsification of the Martini from shaking.  See Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Bruising for details.

Here’s what I’ve done.  I’ve prepared two dry Martinis (i.e., Gin) using 1 1/4 oz. of my favorite Gin.  Each was mixed with 20 ice cubes, one shaken for 10 seconds and one stirred for 45 seconds.   Then put in identical glasses and placed in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  By doing this I’ve removed the variable of temperature.  I mixed the gin for different times in the hope of removing the variable of dilution.  (I didn’t quite succeed, the shaken Martini contained a bit more drink, so it was a bit more diluted.)  Finally by allowing the two glasses to sit I’ve allowed the emulsification to dissipate thereby removing the variable of ‘bruising’.

So which ‘won’??    Hold that thought for now…. Lets start with a couple of facts.  First, taste is a combination of sensor receptors on the tongue (taste receptors, or buds) and in the nasal cavity (olfactory epithelium).   There are also secondary conditions that affect taste; e.g., temperature, texture, and ‘heat’ / spiciness.

Second, taste is a function of “chemistry”.  By that I mean that the body (tongue, palate, mouth, and nose) detects various molecules, ions, chemicals, and compounds and sends signals to the brain which interprets the information as ‘taste’.

Therefore to declare that Shaking a martini changes the taste we must infer that Shaking changes the martini’s chemistry.  Is that possible?  Well, it appears that may be the case.  I did an extensive bit of research (thank you Google) and found the following.

The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario conducted a study to determine if the preparation of a martini has an influence on its antioxidant capacity. They found that the shaken gin martinis were able to break down hydrogen peroxide and leave only 0.072% of the peroxide behind, versus the stirred gin martini, which left behind 0.157% of the peroxide.*

I should also note that the above is the only “citeable” bit of evidence I found anywhere.  Everything else was subjective.  Which brings up the question; is a difference of 0.085% (0.157 – 0.072) peroxide detectable?

Of all the posts, blogs, editorials, and opinions I have read, none provided any solid evidence of the taste changes – in Gin.  A  few reported subtle changes in cheap Vodka martinis – something about cheap vodka being made from potatoes which leave extra oils in the liquor.

The few ‘side by side’ reports I found noted how one method made the Martini colder or weaker or cloudier.  But not a difference in taste.

Which leads us back my experiment: so which tastes better?  To be absolutely honest, I couldn’t taste any difference.  I went back and forth repeatedly, even rinsing my mouth between tastes.  The stirred martini was just a tad stronger, but it didn’t taste different.  That is surely due to the slightly greater dilution of the shaken Martini.  I will certainly try this again adjusting the mixing times and possibly adding straight gin as a third option.  I’ll keep you informed.

Draw.  I could not taste a difference.  Nor can I find documented evidence of a taste difference in Gin anywhere in the googlesphere.  Please send me any links to such articles if you can find them.
*  Hirst, M.; Trevithick, J. R. (18 December 1999). “Shaken, not stirred: bio-analytical study of the antioxidant activities of martinis”. British Medical Journal 319 (7225): 1600–2. doi:10.1136/bmj.319.7225.1600. PMC 28303. PMID 10600955. Retrieved 2006-04-12.

Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Bruising

This is my third “Revisited” post on ‘Shaken vs. Stirred’.   The previous two dealt with Temperature and Dilution.  See Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature and Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Dilution to catch up.   Today we wax poetic on Bruising.

I’m sure you’ve read or heard somewhere that shaking ‘bruises’ the gin and/or Martini.  And by implication, this is ‘BAD’ and you don’t want your Gin to be bruised.    What exactly does Bruising mean?

It does not mean that you’re turning the martini ‘black and blue’!   Nor does it mean that the Gin is ruined.  Nor does it imply that the taste is altered, more on that later.

In our discussion here it means that you emulsify the drink making it cloudy, or if you will, foamy.  Shaking the Martini adds millions and millions of tiny air bubbles into the mix.  Ok, maybe not millions, but a lot.   Enough that all those little bubbles creates the cloudiness in the drink. These tiny air bubbles also make the liquid just a bit less dense. You can feel the difference on your palate – this is sometimes also called ‘Mouth Feel’.

This affect it temporary as the air bubbles eventually work their way to the surface of the liquid and ‘pop’.  This takes approximately 30 – 45 seconds, though I haven’t actually sat there with a stop watch.  Really, who has time to time this when there’s a martini sitting in front of you inviting you to take a sip.  But I digress….  the point being that after about a minute the effect is gone and you’re left with a clear smooth martini.

Next up, Taste …. Which tastes better?  Shaken or Stirred?  Keep your eyes open for the next installment…..

I’d call this a draw. This is ultimately a matter of personal preference. I like the emulsification, but not so adamantly that I ask my drink to be shaken. If the barkeep stirs my drink I’m still a happy camper.

Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Dilution

This is my second “Revisited” post on ‘Shaken vs. Stirred’.   The first dealt with Temperatures.  See Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature if you missed it.   Today I’m going to elaborate on Dilution …..

Many of my comments on temperature apply to dilution also, so some of this will sound repetitive.  But that makes sense as dilution is a function of Temperature.  (Which is why I started with Temperature.)  I’ve also expounded on Dilution in the past if you want to see my prior comments.

Shaken martinis are generally more diluted.  This is primarily due to the pulverization of the ice during shaking creating smaller pieces of ice and therefore increased ice surface area.   As with temperature, the larger the surface area, the greater the dilution.

But, again, time is also a factor.  A martini stirred for 30-45 seconds may well be more diluted that a martini shaken for 5-10 seconds.

Also, again, the initial temperature of the ice is a factor.  Using cold ice will minimize dilution as the mixing must first bring the ice up to melting temperature, 32 deg F.  It should be noted that the smaller shards of ice created by shaking very quickly come up to melting temperature.  So ‘cold ice’ is beneficial to reduce dilution, but the benefit may be minimal.

So using large, very cold ice cubes and stirring the mix for a decent, but careful, amount of time will give you the Martini with the least dilution.

Stirring, when performed optimally with cold ice.   This is not the time for amateur bartenders busy occupied pulling beer taps.  There’s a skill set required to stir efficiently to chill the Martini just to the point of the ice melting.  This takes experience, attention to the process, and time.