Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >
Jan 4, 2014 08:39 AM

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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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