FYI: Should a Martini be shaken or stirred?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 April, 2005, 12:00am

This question drags us into dangerous territory - the ingredients, measures and methods required to create the perfect Martini are in constant dispute among the planet's bartenders. All insist their own magical combination of gin and vermouth is 'the one'.

When we consider the shaken-or-stirred debate, however, we invariably think of 007. Writer Ian Fleming introduced James Bond's favoured tipple in the original 007 novel Casino Royale in 1953, with the sophisticated super-spy dryly commenting: 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made.'

According to Francis Lo, beverage manager at the Peninsula hotel, the ingredients were clinically specified by the fictional secret agent as three parts gin, one part vodka and a dash of Kina Lillet (a golden, French vermouth that contains more than the average amount of quinine, as well as various herbs). Shaken and served with a slice of lemon peel, Bond's personalised Martini was dubbed a Vesper (after the book's femme fatale double agent Vesper Lynd).

The consensus among connoisseurs, however, is that the classic Martini should consist of three parts quality gin (perhaps Gordon's, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray or Plymouth), one part dry vermouth and no vodka, invariably stirred - never shaken - with ice cubes before being strained into a chilled, wide-rimmed Martini glass.

Purists argue that shaking 'bruises' the gin and makes a Martini taste too sharp. Some go further, claiming that a classic Martini when shaken is not a true Martini at all, but a drink called a Bradford. 'Put simply, there is no right or wrong way,' says Dean Winter, executive assistant manager, food and beverage, at the Mandarin Oriental, 'but shaking a gin Martini is like having a great steak well done - a bit of a waste.'

Research published in the British Medical Journal, meanwhile, claims a shaken Martini is actually healthier than the stirred version. Scientists at Canada's University of Western Ontario, using a hi-tech 'vortex mixer' gadget (Q would be proud), found that antioxidant properties were enhanced by shaking, thereby reducing risk of heart disease, strokes and cataracts. In response to such sacrilegious findings, Peter Dorelli, then head barman at the Savoy Hotel in London (where some say the Martini was invented - the Dutch, the Germans and the Americans also stake aggressive claims), countered that shaking ruins the mix. 'It changes the molecular structure,' Dorelli said. 'It flattens and makes a dreadful drink.'

While the Pen's Lo agrees that a traditional Martini should always be stirred, he adds that shaken Martini-style cocktails containing ingredients such as fresh fruit, flavoured vodkas and rum, are becoming increasingly popular. He insists a chilled glass is essential in preparation.