Cocktail Time

Shaken not stirred?

No drink, let alone cocktail, quite exudes the aura of class that a Martini does. When we say Martini, we think of James Bond, or other suave men in tuxedos. It’s the most potent of all cocktails, essentially just neat spirit depending on how you make it. Almost as famous are vermouth magnates Martini, with the most iconic logo in the world of booze. Think Bottas at Williams.

The Martini has been around for at least 100 years, although the origin of its name is a bit of a mystery. Some say it took the name of vermouth makers Martini, as vermouth is essential in making a Martini. Also, a popular take is that it’s a riff on the older cocktail the Martinez, which has a fairly similar recipe. Either way, it’s a very old and storied drink.

However, since the Martini is so famous and recognisable to the ear, there are a lot of myths to be busted. We’ll start off with the most famous: shaken not stirred. I love 007, but I can’t forgive Ian Fleming for spreading this lunacy.

Every proper cocktail is either shaken or stirred, and it’s very easy to know which to do. A spirit-only cocktail is to be stirred, and one with other modifiers like syrups or fruit juices are to be shaken. Both serve the purpose of chilling and diluting, but when a drink is stirred, no aeration is added, maintaining the desirable smooth texture of ice-cold spirits. Shaking, on the other hand, introduces aeration resulting in a coarser texture but does mix the contents better, which is especially needed when dealing with ingredients of varying density.

Don’t get me started on Stanley Tucci’s Negroni recipe.

It’s a no-brainer then, that such a spirit forward cocktail should be stirred. There’s a reason we have the iconic line “Shaken, not stirred”, and that’s because no bartender in their right mind would shake a Martini by default. I heard some idiot on Instagram saying it was because when you shake the water stays on top so our James isn’t actually getting drunk, which is obviously stupid and wrong. Sorry, I get emotional about such things. Don’t get me started on Stanley Tucci’s Negroni recipe.

Anyway, beef with pop culture aside, let’s get into something far more important: wetness. You may have heard Martinis being ordered ‘dry’, ‘wet’ or even ‘dirty’. Wetness corresponds to the amount of dry vermouth added to the base spirit. Confusingly, the more dry vermouth, the wetter. A ‘wet’ Martini would usually call for 0.5oz (15ml) of vermouth, whereas ‘dry’ roughly one bar spoon (5ml). ‘Very wet’ would be about 1oz (30ml), although that’s not a common request, and ‘extra dry’ is literally just pouring some vermouth into the mixing glass, stirring with ice, and then discarding, leaving only the aroma. You could also rinse the glass instead (pour in, swill, discard). ‘Perfect’ means equal sweet and dry vermouth, and ‘dirty’ means a bit of olive brine.

That’s just the main modifications, there remains another important question: gin or vodka? Gin is more traditional, and its herbal and juniper notes work well with higher amounts of vermouth, whereas vodka has less flavour, especially when chilled, and so makes the cleanest of all cocktails when ordered extra dry. You can also add a dash or two of orange bitters, for some more subtle flavour, but this is very much optional.

Let’s put this into a recipe:

Into a mixing glass, add:

  • Ice, the bigger the better
  • Some, little, or no dry vermouth.
  • One, two, or zero dashes of orange bitters.
  • Maybe some olive brine (don’t)
  • A sturdy 2oz (60ml) pour of either gin or vodka

Then, STIR. Strain into chilled cocktail or Martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist, or a lime twist, or an odd number of olives on a cocktail pick. Simple. At this point, if you’re looking to get hammered but have literally nothing other than own brand gin and ice, you can make a Martini.

At this point, I want to bring up the Vesper Martini, but this article is already long enough, so you’ll just have to google it. If you actually care, that is.



Image credits: Pixabay on, Miguel Padrinan on, Jan Laugesen on

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