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Shaken or Stirred? James Bond May Have Been Ordering His Martinis Wrong


“Shaken, Not Stirred.”

Who among us hasn't heard this famous line uttered in at least one 007 film? James Bond’s famous vodka martini order is so beloved among fans that this catchphrase is often a frequent fixture on rankings of the best movie quotes of all time.

Yet, it’s also fuelled an age old debate about the merits of “shaking vs stirring” one’s cocktail, with some mixologists concluding that unfortunately: the enigmatic British secret service agent has been ordering his martini all wrong this whole time.

Settling the James Bond 'shaken vs stirred' debate does warrant some understanding of interesting cocktail fundamentals. So let’s discuss the different reasons why one might choose to shake or stir a cocktail, and let you be the judge of how you like your cocktails prepared!

When to Shake vs Stir A Cocktail 

At the heart of it, both shaking and stirring a cocktail are design to serve the same purpose: mix the ingredients and chill the cocktail. How I like to think about it is that you should choose a method based broadly on three factors: (1) types of ingredients, (2) degree of dilution you can tolerate, and (3) texture you’re trying to achieve.

Here are some general rule of thumbs:

Shake when…

(Image source: BroBible)

  • Ingredients: You’re making a cocktail that contains juice, citrus, cream and other non-carbonated mixers. This is important especially if you have ingredients of thicker consistency that would require more vigorous mixing to be properly incorporate with one another.
  • Degree of Dilution: Shaking also tends to increase dilution, which can be a desirable outcome at times if you’re looking to balance out heavier ingredients. This happens because the vigorous violence of the shaking can chip the ice inside, causing it to melt faster and introduce water back into the mixture.
  • Texture: The process of shaking also causes more aeration and creates tiny air bubbles. So if you’re going for a frothier or more bubbly texture, and are working with ingredients like egg whites, you might want to shake it!

Commonly shaken cocktails: Margaritas, Cosmopolitan, Ramos Fizz

Stir when…

(Image source: Kegworks)
  • Ingredients: You’re making a cocktail that contain clear liquors, tonics and bitters. These are generally easier to incorporate with one another, and doesn’t require the heavy hand of a shaker.
  • Degree of Dilution: Stirring is a more gentle method that minimizes the amount of dilution to the drink, giving you a punchier, stronger cocktail. Also note that stirring a cocktail doesn’t chill the drink quite as fast as a good shaking, but having a sliiightly cocktail can help to draw out more flavour notes and aromatics to enjoy as you sip on it.
  • Texture: Because there’s also lesser aeration happening, the resultant cocktail yields a silkier, smoother consistency – a particularly covetable texture when you’re dealing with clear and often colourless ingredients.

Commonly stirred cocktails: Martini, Negroni, Manhattan

So…Why Was James Bond Wrong?

The issue with shaking a martini is that the liquid can become cloudy due to the likelihood of more aeration. Dry martinis shine best when they are sparklingly clear, and stirring rather than shaking does the trick! Plus, there’s also a likelihood that the gin or vodka becomes “bruised” due to the agitation from shaking, and this can transform the spirit and make it taste slightly bitter or metallic as a result.

On an episode of West Wing, the President Josiash Bartlet even once made a dig at Bond’s famous order:

“Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.”

To be fair, there are commentators that defend Bond’s choice of martini preparation, arguing that it makes sense in the context of his story and the time that Ian Fleming (the creator of the 007 series) lived in. Think about it… an international spy in perilous life-or-death situations, James Bond kind of needs to stay sober and keep his wits about him. A weaker, more diluted cocktail miiight just give him a slight upper hand.

Author of the James Bond spy novels, Ian Fleming. (Image source: Bond Fan Events)

I’m more inclined to go with the other explanation: During the 1920s and 1930s that Ian Fleming lived in, it was common for all cocktails to be shaken regardless of the ingredients. So perhaps, he never got to try the stirred version anyway.

Should I Change The Way I Order My Martini?

Not really! In my opinion, it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

It’s your cocktail so you (or James Bond for that matter) should get to order it however you like. Some people do like their martinis slightly more diluted and cooler than if shaken. Although it’s not “traditional” for vodka martinis to be shaken, if you enjoy it, by all means, keep ordering it that way!

If anyone gives you shit for how you order it, just take a cue from Daniel Craig when pressed about his martini preference, and repeat his iconic words: “do I look like a give a damn?!”