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.

Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature

I’m baaaaack.  (Think Schwarzenegger!)  After the recent consecutive holidays (World Gin Day & National Martini Day) I took a couple of days off.  But I’m back with more thoughts and, of course, more martini reviews.

Since I’ve had this blog going, I’ve had a number of conversations on Shaken vs. Stirred.  The two camps appear to be composed of dedicated committed adherents to their particular beliefs.  But all my discussions have been lighthearted and fun.   Ultimately we are all more alike in our love for Martinis than different in our choice of technique.

Past posts detail my thoughts on this topic and I don’t want to deprive you of the pleasure of reading each one in detail.  ( Shaken or Stirred?? and Shaken or Stirred, Part Two )  But I thought I’d elaborate on the main differences between the two mixing methods.

However in an effort to keep my posts a reasonable length, I’ve found that I’m going to have to separate these thought into manageable bites.  There will be a couple more posts coming along in the same vein very shorty.  But first up:

The conventional wisdom is that shaken cocktails are colder than stirred.  This is because there is more agitation when shaken.  Furthermore, shaking the drink also causes the ice to break up, increasing ice surface area.  If the barkeep is vigorously shaking, as opposed to just sort of waving the shaker around, there will be more shards of ice created, and more surface area.   As we know, thermal energy flow is a function of surface area, so more area – more cold.

But wait, thermal energy transfer is also time dependent.  Starting with the same mass of ice at the same starting temperature and Martini mixes at the same temperature, then the colder drink might well be the one that is mixed longer.   A barkeep who nicely sirs the Martini for 30-45 seconds may produce a colder Martini than one who is very busy and just shakes the mix for 5-10 seconds.  If you keep the mixing time constant, only then will the shaken cocktail certainly be colder than the stirred.

Of course, starting temperature of the ice is also very important.  The colder ice may trump the stirring / shaking time.  You can see my comments on Cold Ice in a prior post.

Advantage?  I’d call this a draw.
The ultimate temperature of your drink is very dependent on the Barkeep and his ice.  How much time she or he puts into mixing the Martini, the starting temperature of the ice, and how vigorously the mix if shaken.

Bar Review: 86 West, Doylestown, PA

I walked into this place and I just didn’t want to like it.   The first thing you notice was the stark, almost spartan, decor done up in moody earth tones.  Even the bar itself was plain.  My immediate impression was that they were trying very hard to be hip and trendy.  My overall response was just “meh”, to quote my teenage son.  More on that in a bit.

I ordered my martini and a menu – mostly bar food and Sushi???!!!   When was that ever an appetizing combination?   “I’ll have the Bar Burger and a spicy tuna roll please.”

So I ordered the “86 West Burger” with my Martini…. yes a burger and Martini!  To my surprise the burger was really very good.  Their homemade chips were also great.

Finally, the Martini was good, really good   Not great, but really good.  The stem was taken from the freezer and was very nicely cooled.   The mix was perfectly dry and abundant, almost overflowing the stem.

My only complaint, and which keeps this bar from a second martin glass is that the barkeep poured the Sapphire into the shaker with bar ice and just let it sit there.  Off she went to pour a few beers for other patrons.  I guess she thought that “not shaken, not stirred, just left to get cold” was the optimum solution to chilling the dink.  Of course the martini was nicely chilled but also a bit more diluted than I like.   The only other beef, and its minor, was that the stem was on the small side.

A final note about my ‘meh’ comment above; by the time I left the place had become amazingly busy!  On a Wednesday evening, so they must be doing something right.

Overall, a good martini and really good bar/comfort food.  The decor isn’t my ‘cup of tea’, but it clearly is for a lot of people.  My rating:  Martini Glass Upright

For selection 86 West gets a “C”.  A non exhaustive sampling:
Sapphire, Hendricks, Tanguaray, Bluecoat,
New Amsterdam, Beefeater, Bombay.

Dilution, Myth or Reality

Have you heard anyone say that a Martini needs to be properly diluted when mixed?? To what are they referring?  What does that mean?

Depending on distiller, gin varies from about 80 proof to 100 proof, or 40% ABV to 50% ABV (Alcohol By Volume).   It also varies from country to country, depending on local laws and customs.   For example, my favorite, Bombay Sapphire (US) is 94 proof or 47% ABV .   Now quiz time: what is the rest of the volume?  Answer: water.  More precisely filtered purified, possibly distilled, water.

When you dilute the Martini you’re adding water to the mix and in doing so lowering the ABV level!  If that’s what you want then why not just use a less strong gin to begin with??

Furthermore, when you dilute the drink by extended mixing you’re adding water which has melted from the mixing ice.  Ice which has come, most likely from the bar or restaurant’s ice maker.  Does your bar use filtered purified water in their ice maker?  I doubt it.  And when was the last time your bar actually cleaned their ice maker?  Who knows what is growing in there.

You might want to look back at my post on “Cold Ice” to see additional comments about bar ice.

Personally I like my Martini full strength with absolutely minimal dilution and absolutely no extra melted ice from a questionable ice source.

Just for fun, here is a brief sampling of ABV levels of various popular gins:
Gordon’s 37.5% ABV (UK)
Gordon’s 40% ABV (US)
Beefeater 40% ABV (UK)
Beefeater 47% ABV (US)
Tanqueray No. Ten 47.3% ABV
Hendrick’s 44% ABV
Bombay Sapphire 47% ABV  (US)
Bombay Sapphire 40% ABV (UK)
Boodles 45.2% ABV (US)
Boodles 40% ABV (UK)

If you enjoy these posts, please tell your friends.  Comments are always welcome.

Perfect Coffee!

No, this is not a post on how to make perfect coffee.  I have my hands full with a Perfect Martini.  But I wanted to elaborate on something about which I’ve been preaching.  And that is properly chilling the martini stem.  And to illustrate that I’m going to use hot coffee.

Have you noticed that when you pour your freshly brewed coffee into your mug in the morning that its not as hot as it was in the pot?  Its because the room temperature mug cools the coffee slightly.  Just as a room temperature Martini stem immediately warms the colder just shaken Martini.

Now you won’t notice this affect at Starbucks (OK, or Peets, or Dunkin Donuts, or Coffee Bean, etc.) because they put their hot coffee in a paper cup.   A paper cup which has a very low thermal mass, so it doesn’t affect the coffee temperature much.

Try this at home.  Brew your coffee and simultaneously pour equal amounts of coffee into both a ceramic mug and a paper cup.  Or plastic ‘solo’ cup.  Then immediately taste the two side by side.   Which one is hotter?

So how to solve this problem?  Well when I turn my brewer on I also take my mug, fill it with water and pop it into the microwave for 3 minutes.  While the coffee brews the microwave heats the water in my mug which  heats the mug.  When the coffee is brewed I dump the water from the mug and put the hot coffee into the hot mug…. problem solved.