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James Bond: Drinking watered-down martinis?

James Bond is famous for his famous instructions, "Medium dry vodka martini. Shaken but not stirred. Very cold." One critic whom I read remarked, "The man is asking for a watered down martini." The shaking will melt the ice in a martini, thus resulting in a watered down martini. However, I have read/heard recommendations by bartenders and chefs on the Food Network to allow a martini to become a tad watered down through the shaking, thereby mellowing out the flavor and taking the sharp edge off. To me, to minimize the ice melt, stirring but not shaking, makes sense. What do you think?

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  1. I think anyone ordering a vodka martini deserves what they get.

    Seriously though, the rule of thumb is that drinks that are pure spirit (like martinis) should be stirred whereas drinks with juice, egg or dairy should be shaken. However, my understanding is that this was largely aesthetic, so stirred drinks wouldn't be come foamy. I can't imagine there is a huge difference in dilution between shaken and stirred, but maybe some of our cocktail experts will weigh in an correct me.

    1. I prefer my gin martinis to be wet to medium dry. For the time they are in the shaker, they can gain up to 25% of additional volume from the melting ice. Works for me.

      When I can get hard, not wet ice, and access to cold gin from the cooler, I have been known to make an initial super dry martini with minimal melt. But that is a rare occasion.

      1. I thought Bond watered down his martinis with Lillet.
        AKA the Vesper

        9 Replies
        1. re: porker

          The Vesper is vodka-gin-lillet and is only one of 317 drinks he has in all of the Bond books. He's actually more of whiskey and champagne guy, but for some reason he's known for his martinis (both gin and vodka).

          1. re: yarm

            I knew the Vesper was a vodka-gin-lillet concoction.
            I did not know he enjoyed 317 different types of drinks.
            It was an excuse to post a picture of Eva Green.

          2. re: porker

            You had me at Eva Green.

            Truth be told, I'm an old fashioned, 4 to 1, martini guy. Been that way for thirty years. I think that shaking is a mortal sin and vodka is best saved for caviar. I prefer a twist to an olive, and think that Dean Martin is way better than Frank Sinatra.

            Nevertheless, if that girl's belly up at a bar with you, there's only one thing to say to the bartender when he comes by, "Please get the lady another, and I'll have the same. Oh, and, keep the change . . . ."

            1. re: MGZ

              "Please get the lady another, and I'll have the same. Oh, and, keep the change . . . ."

              I tried that once, proudly handing over a fifty...thing was I didn't know the tab was $49.75...

              I'm with you on the vodka thing (I cringe anytime a server asks "vodka or gin?". In fact I many times just say "forget it, just give me a pint of your wateriest tap beer" and they say "huh?")
              I'm with you on Dino.
              And I'm obviously in with Mme. Green.

              However, ratio-wise and twist vs olive depends on my mood. Sometimes much drier, sometimes half and half. Sometimes a twist, sometimes a very dirty mix with EXtra olives.

              The shaking? I guess I'm a sinner...
              I love the shaker, I love sound, and I love the flecks of ice floating in the first few moments.

              Different strokes...

              1. re: porker

                That, my old friend, made me laugh - more than once.

                Sometimes, the beauty the world has to offer is in the eyes of the beholder. Sometimes, it's a topless, French actress on a thirty by seventy foot screen that takes the collective breath out of a theater.

                I'll tell you what. Someday, order a "perfect Z martini - four to one, London dry, a dash of bitters, with a twist, and dear God, barkeep, please stir it in gentle 'strokes'." In return, the next time I buy a lady a drink, I'll just leave the bartender one bit as a tip in your honor after I let him bruise my gin.

            2. re: porker

              The Vesper appeared in "Casino Royale," the book. I don't recall it appearing in any other Bond book, although I won't swear by it.

              An interesting fact: Bond substitutes Kina Lillet in the book (presumably) for vermouth in the Vesper.

              I was always able to find Lillet in liquor stores but never "Kina" Lillet. (I concluded that it was some kind of name change for Lillet and was marketed that way in Europe. Wrong!) Years later, I found out that Kina Lillet was sold in Europe in Fleming's time (he died in 1956), but was subsequently discontinued.

              In the article I read, Kina Lillet reportedly had a slight quinine flavor to it, which probably explains why the company making Lillet discontinued it. (On the other hand, the Brits do love their "gin and tonics," which contain quinine in the tonic.)

              Yarn, did Bond drink gin martinis, as you mentioned? I thought that he was a purely vodka martini guy. (Much as I admire Bond and his creator, I've never been able to understand the attraction of a vodka martini. It needs more flavor. It needs the juniper berry flavor of gin.)

              1. re: gfr1111

                I think the flavor came from a "dash of bitters"

                1. re: gfr1111

                  What a coincidence; I just had a Vesper not too long before reading this. I still don't care for them :/

                  I've heard that Cocchi Americano, another wine-based aperitif, is closer to Kina Lillet than Lillet Blanc is, though I can't say for sure whether it is or isn't. I do prefer it, though.

                  To be honest, I don't think the flavor of either comes through that noticeably in a Vesper.

                  I'm with you on not seeing much in a vodka Martini. To be honest, I think chilled vodka on its own can be enjoyable in its own right, since it has a sort of crisp cleanness that nothing else really seems to match. As a gin substitute in cocktails, though, it makes a very underwhelming alternative.

                  1. re: gfr1111

                    There is a controversy about whether Kina Lillet is the same as today's Lillet or not. I believe that Lillet claims that it was a change in name only, and others feel that the formula changed too. And given that the flavor in very old bottles changes, it's probably not possible to tell even if you could find an old bottle to compare.

                    My opinion, not based on extensive research, is that the recipe probably was changed to make the product more palatable for the broader market -- the US in particular.

                    I enjoy Cocci Americano for it's enhanced bitter profile -- both as an ingredient and by itself, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon. I have yet to dry Lillet's red and rose versions.


                2. It becomes a touch more watered down and chilled when shaken not stirred. Keep in mind that when that book was written, many of the gins (and other spirits) were stronger than 80 proof. Some gins like Beefeater remain higher than 80 proof and several brands have created or re-introduced navy strength (114°) gins.

                  Strange how movies and books have shaped mixology. When I as a bartender can give spy advice to a secret agent, I'll take a literary one's advice in exchange.

                  I used to stir Dirty Martinis until someone explained that olive "juice" has a lot of oils that need to be integrated. And people who want it dirty don't care if it's stirred (the drink will be cloudy and flavored anyways).


                  1. a) ____ Stirred.
                    b) ____ Shaken.
                    c) ____ Drink it however you like it best.

                    I'll opt for "c."

                    YES, shaking will cause more ice melt . . . relatively speaking, it's a small amount, depending upon the size of the ice.

                    YES, stirring long and hard will do the same thing.

                    YES, stirring will (help to) keep the martini crystal clear, versus shaking -- presuming no olive brine.

                    YES, most gins at the time Ian Fleming was writing his spy novels, were 90-94 proof (vs. 80 today), so the "ice melt" didn't really water anything down (by today's standards).

                    AND who wants a drunk guy armed with a license to kill and a loaded handgun anyway?

                    1 Reply
                    1. I've seen a clip from The West Wing where a character says the same thing. To me he sounds a bit like a know-it-all who isn't as worldly as he thinks he is:


                      In my experience, just from making drinks at home, the difference in taste between shaking a Martini for around 10 seconds and stirring it for around 30 to 45 seconds is negligible. And since they both fit in the same glass pretty nicely, I'd imagine the difference in volume, though I'm sure there is one, is also negligible.

                      Likewise, I don't even think the "stir because the ingredients are all clear" maxim is that important, since even after shaking vigorously, with a healthy amount of vermouth, a Martini will go clear after a minute or so.

                      I have to wonder, though, how one dilutes the flavor of a vodka Martini with a little bit of extra water when, with all due respect to vodka lovers, a dry vodka Martini is already pretty flavorless.

                      (As for me, if I want to emulate James Bond, I drink straight vodka with a pinch of black pepper, as he does in Moonraker. It doesn't seem to be catching on, though.)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: A_Gonzalez

                        I don't have my copy of Moonraker handy at the moment -- in the middle of moving -- but as far as I recall, the ***reason*** that 007 (and friends) tossed some coarsely ground black pepper into their (Russian, specifically -- or should I say, "Soviet") vodka was to absorb the fusel oils and draw them down to the bottom . . .

                        See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusel_al...

                        1. re: zin1953

                          If I remember correctly (without my copy of Moonraker handy either) Bond explains to M that although he started doing it for exactly that reason when drinking cheap Soviet vodka, he grew to like the taste (or it just became a habit), which is why he does it even for the good vodka M orders for him at the Blades Club.

                          Though I have to wonder what the point is of putting pepper in your vodka to draw out the fusel oils if you're just going to drink the pepper too, as it seems Bond does.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            I remember that reference Zin although I didn't remember it from Moonraker(hey - kagemusha49 is 4 years older than zin1953). On my only trip to Russia in the early 90s I was on a train from St Petersburg to Moscow. It was a bit Dr Zhivagoish with sealed carriages. Bored with the adult students I was supposedly supervising I made friends with the guards and bought some medals from them. To celebrate they produced a bottle that said it was Stolichnaya but, from the taste, had to have been potatoes in someone's bathtub a week earlier. Next day was grim as we never used any black pepper to soak up fusel oils or whatever other crap there might have been in that brew.

                        2. But they needed to be watered down. It has been found that based on the number of martini drinks he consumed in a day, he would have consumed an estimated 7 grams of alcohol per day at which rate he would have had to shake them because of the hand tremors he would have had and it would have put a damper on his sex life as well as shortening his life.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            7 grams of alcohol a day? That's less than a small glass of wine or a single scotch or a can of beer. What prohibitionist website did you dredge the information from? It must be a typo. :-)

                            1. re: kagemusha49

                              Must have been in one of my drunken stupors that I remembered the number 7.

                              Bond consumed around 105 grams of pure ethanol per day on average.

                              The research is from a BMJ article

                              Time for another drink

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Bond was licensed to drink 007 grams per day perhaps?

                                1. re: kagemusha49

                                  Thanks. 7....007.
                                  Yeah, that's right! I'll take any excuse I can get

                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    One should never allow facts to get in the way of foggily remembered trivia. Takes the fun out of conversation.

                                    Unless there is a bet.

                          2. I think Bond can take his martini however he fancies.

                            He's saved the world enough times over to be given that much leeway, me thinks.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              If that were true, I'd be able to get the drink I want at every bar I go to without having to explain. Worst thing about being so effective, it requires a certain amount of discretion. The Navy doesn't like us showing the video of the Bin Laden "intervention" on our iPhones to civies.

                              1. re: MGZ

                                I have to be discreet because I fear that some bartender will pull out his stash of Kryptonite ice cubes.

                                No fun.

                                It's why I order all my scotch neat.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Damn it, Mrs. Smith, you're going to blow are f*ckin' cover!

                            2. OK, the semi-scientific answer. As opposed to all the ones that had me chuckling.

                              A lot of folks here saying much the same thing. The differences in dilution between stirring and shaking aren't much. Maybe around 5% difference. In a cocktail you want dilution, to integrate the ingredients and bring out the flavor. I took a lot of research by folks and played with it to see if it came out the same. I then put together different pieces and came up with my own findings. Basically just adding them all together to look at the big picture.

                              If you have decent ice, and always fill the shaker at least 3/4 to the top, preferably all the way, you will get the same amount of dilution each time. It just happens faster when shaking. Around 17-20 seconds of shaking dilutes the drink as much as it will get, and makes it as cold as it will get. The cocktail in the shaker hits homeostasis as the drink dilutes. It will stay at that point with no temp. change or dilution even if you let it sit for a few minutes. (Unless it is out in bright sun and it's very hot out.) By the way, a lazy shake and a great shake don't make much difference. The movement and time are what counts. What is really interesting is that because of the alcohol in the shaker, the drink will actually get colder than the temp. of the ice. I have measured cocktails that were at a starting point of room temp. apx. 70F, shaken with 32F ice, and the cocktail is 17F.

                              The same thing happens in stirring. 35 seconds of stirring and the drink gets to 85% of homeostasis. You would have to stir it for around 4-5 minutes for it to hit full homeostasis. Again, a fast stir and a slow stir don't make much difference.

                              So I insist that bartenders I train shake for 17-20 seconds and stir for 30-40 seconds.

                              The thing I don't like about shaking Manhattans/Martinis is the tiny ice chips that float on top, and the cloudiness of the drink. Yes, it will turn clear in a minute. But the ice chips melt and you get water floating on top and for a sip or two it can taste watery and feel thin. A stirred drink has a velvety, oily, sensual texture to it.

                              I tend to fine strain almost all shaken drinks to remove the ice chips. One of the few I don't is my version of a Cosmopolitan, which has flamed orange peel as a garnish. The little bit of ice melt on top seems to help the flamed orange oils integrate.

                              Dilution in a cocktail is more about the ice. Wet vs. dry. Wet ice is crappy ice that is covered in water. It is made by ice machines that barely freeze the water and the temp. is at around 32F. The water on the surface can add up to 20% more dilution to the cocktail. Very wet ice can add even more.

                              Dry ice is good ice that is very solid and cold. So it has no water on the surface.

                              You can help turn wet ice into dry ice by filling a good cooler to the top with nasty, cheap, wet ice. Close it and let it sit for several hours. The water seeps to the bottom. The ice tempers and regulates itself becoming dryer and firmer.

                              I found this out several years ago when I went on a camping trip on a farm with a bunch of high end bartenders and chefs. I had several coolers filled with wet, crappy ice from an old, used, ice machine that we had gotten for free for our winery. This ice was so wet, and the machine so bad, that we had to put in a drain to get rid of the water that poured out of the machine.

                              Anyway, the ice was so wet that the first batch of cocktails tasted like water. The bartenders gave me hell for bringing such bad ice. I threw the coolers in the trunk of my car, where they stayed for the night. The next day I was going to throw out the ice. When I opened the coolers the ice was great.

                              22 Replies
                              1. re: JMF

                                Great, educational reply. Exactly what I'd expect from JMF. Thanks!

                                1. re: JMF

                                  Actually JMF, I believe your scenario defies the laws of thermodynamics, specifically Boyle's law.

                                  Ice fresh out of the freezer will normally be anywhere from 0-10 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how good the freezer is - thus the resulting drink can be 17 degrees, since alcohol acts as an antifreeze.

                                  1. re: ncyankee101

                                    Boyle's law refers to gasses, I believe:

                                    Even with 32*F ice, you can end up with a drink well under 32*F. In a bar with 32*F ice, all the cooling comes from melting. At home with colder ice, a small portion comes from the ice warming to the state-change temp, and you end up with slightly colder drinks for the same dilution.

                                    This was not obvious to me immediately, either. I was corrected by, I think, yarm. There are several good threads / blog posts about this, should one wish to search, as well as some experiments with shaking versus stirring.

                                    www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                      Salt also acts as an antifreeze - but try adding salt to a mixture of ice and water and watch how cold it gets, None of the 3 laws of thermodynamics is called Boyle's law as Boyle's law has nothing to do with thermodynamics or temperature (except keeping the temperature constant).

                                      1. re: kagemusha49

                                        This is now, officially, the least cool subthread in the history of the Site.

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          Hey - we're just working on turning it into a McGyver thread!

                                          1. re: kagemusha49

                                            If anybody starts on Delta S, please go to thewww. What is sex/PhysicsNerd.com website.

                                        2. re: kagemusha49

                                          Adding salt to water reduces the freezing point, and is SLIGHTLY endothermic, but will not magically drop the temperature of water from 32 to 17. If the ambient air is colder than 32, then yes the water/salt mixture will get colder than 32 without freezing.

                                          Boyle's law has nothing to do with thermodynamics? Try taking a course in thermo instead of reading wikipedia before you make a statement like that. While what I actually meant was the law of entropy, the ideal gas law has everything to do with thermodynamics and is just Boyle's law with variable temperature - but the principle is exactly the same, and it is the basis for all refrigeration systems we use today, so I would say it has something to do with thermodynamics.

                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                            I don't need to read a Wikipedia page - I got a double first in Natural Sciences at Cambridge.

                                            1. re: kagemusha49

                                              Gee, I went to Pembroke (Cambridge) in 1977, and all I got was this silly accent . . .

                                                1. re: kagemusha49

                                                  Seriously! (After all, honestly, who would pull Pembroke out of their hat?!?)

                                                  I was at the top of "L" staircase. Read History. But it was through a program with the University of California -- got my degree from UC Santa Cruz.

                                                  Made the mistake of visiting The Granta after 30 years, only to find it had shifted from a student-haunt into a pub for the tourist trade, :((( Nonetheless, I still have a fondness for Abbot Ale . . . .

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    I drank plenty of beer at Cambridge (hey - Christs does back onto King Street) but most of the local brews were not great (eg Greene King). Abbott was definitely above average in that neck of the woods. I agree that Pembroke is an unlikely pick for a bluffer - definitely up there with Gonville and Caius (especially if you can pronounce both Pem-brook and Keys).

                                                  2. re: zin1953

                                                    I don't find your accent silly at all.

                                                2. re: ncyankee101

                                                  @nc -- I have a similar degree (Brown, '80, BSEE), a similarly-moldy class in thermodynamics, and a similar initial -- but wrong -- reaction.

                                                  The result is counter-intuitive.

                                                  When a solid is placed in a liquid with lower freezing point, the solid melts, extracting its latent heat of fusion from the liquid, thereby reducing the system's temperature to below the melting point of the solid.

                                                  While counter-intuitive, it's very easy to demonstrate. Take some ice and add water to it. Let is sit until it comes to 32*F. Remove from the water, shake the excess water off, and place into a shaker with spirits (say 80 proof). Shake for 30 seconds.. Notice the ice forming on the outside. Take temp. It will be around 17*F. If you use higher proof spirits, it will be lower.

                                                  Ice cream making works the same brine. Fetch the block of ice from the ice vendor, let it sit around all afternoon (coming to 32*F). Add salt, and freeze the ice cream to 20*F or below. You simply cannot make ice cream at 32*F -- it's a runny mess at that temperature. Enjoy peach ice cream with family.

                                                  I embarrassed myself in a similar thread a couple of years ago.

                                                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                    Yes Dan I realized all this on my way to work but haven't had time to make a post eating my humble pie yet. Also this phone doesn't like this forum.

                                                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                      My apologies to Kagemusha and everyone involved in this thread. I realized on my way to work a couple hours ago that I was looking at this as a thermal equilibrium problem when it is chemical equilibrium, I knew this 25 yrs ago but have long forgotten, and now I feel like a complete idiot.

                                                      So now I am going to go sulk in a corner with a 17 degree Manhattan. (ok when I get home from work).

                                                      Again my apologies.

                                                      1. re: ncyankee101

                                                        Enjoy your Manhattan and chill out(chemically) after your gracious post.

                                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                                            Ya'll evah get up heah to NYC and I'll make some cocktails for ya.

                                                            1. re: JMF

                                                              JMF - I live in NC but am originally from Pittsburgh so I think you meant "If yinz ever get up to NYC I'll make yinz some cocktails n'at."

                                                3. James Bond movie documentary on TV last night. Director Harry Saltzman said they did things to make Bond different

                                                  1. I wish I had graduate degrees in something useful for this conversation like chemistry, but the last chem course I took was in High School. Whoda Thunk that with 4.5 graduate degrees (which I now find useless) I can't actually explain why the water/alcohol solution can get down way below the starting point of 32F ice and room temp. booze. I had the reasoning explained to me a year or two ago, but...

                                                    I sent messages to Kevin Liu and Co. at Sciencefare.org and my friend Darcy O'Neill at ArtofDrink.com to find out the science.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                      So Darcy said, "It's because alcohol interferes with the crystal structure of ice which means the water can't change to a solid. This allows the temperature to go lower and when water changes state from a liquid to a solid you need to remove a lot of energy (heat). On the other hand water needs a lot of energy to turn it into steam, hence why it is great at fire fighting. It's actually a unique property of water."

                                                      "Steam and ice formation fall under latent heat of fusion and latent heat of vaporization. Alcohol and water is freezing point depression."

                                                    2. I need that first sip to be icy cold to smooth out the shock. From then on, the warmer it gets, the worse it tastes, so shake, shake, shake. I like the fake ice cubes which keep it cold without diluting. They keep the ice slivers from melting.

                                                      1. 2 things:

                                                        1) "Vodka Martini" is a contradiction in terms. it is a thing that, by definition, does not and cannot exist.

                                                        2) Water is the unacknowledged third ingredient of a Martini. If you put a bottle of gin in the freezer and made a Martini with it using no ice, it wouldn't be very good.

                                                        So it's really just a question of how much ice melt there is, and that's a matter of personal preference. I like my Martinis very cold and with a reasonable amount of ice melt, so I shake. YMMV.

                                                        1 Reply