Shaken, not stirred: James Bond vs the martini world

Drink and drinking

“Shaken, not stirred”. However much we associate those words with 007, they never appear quite so succinctly in Ian Fleming’s books; only in Diamonds Are Forever and Doctor No do we read of vodka martinis served “shaken and not stirred”.


Although James Bond does not always stipulate how he wants his martinis served in the books, and he drinks both regular martinis and vodka martinis, there are enough occasions to know that he prefers his drinks shaken.

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Perhaps an argument could be made that he only prefers his vodka martinis and Vespers shaken. However, on at least one occasion, in 007 In New York, he plans on going to the ’21 for a couple of martinis Beefeater gin; these will be shaken and served with a twist of lemon peel.

Why does 007 prefer his drinks shaken?

Like many aspects of Bond’s character, his preference for shaking his martinis and vodka martinis comes from Ian Fleming; in a 1956 article he stipulated asking for a martini made with gin to be shaken.

Fleming switched from gin to vodka in the 1950s as he believed vodka was better for his health, although he was introduced to vodka martinis earlier than this; he visited Moscow prior to the Second World War as a journalist to cover the trial of a number of British engineers accused of spying.

John Pearson, in his biography of Fleming, says that it was in the bar of the Moscow’s National Hotel that Fleming was “served his first sixteen-rouble martini”; it was almost certainly was made with vodka.

A Wikipedia entry claims that Andrew Lycett believes that Fleming prefered his drinks shaken because stirring diminished the flavour, although I cannot find any reference to that in his biography of Fleming. There are also several claims that Fleming liked the shaken martinis of Hans Schröder, first at his bar in in Berlin and later at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco; again, these claims appear to be unsubstantiated.

However, returning to Pearson’s biography, the head barman of Scott’s remembered Fleming was particular about the slice of lemon peel in his vodka martinis, while neglecting to mention anything about whether they were shaken or stirred.

The right way to mix a martini

Speak to anyone who knows about martinis and they will tell you two things.

  • Martinis are made with gin.
  • Shaking a martini is wrong because it bruises the gin.

They do have a point on the gin. If it is made with vodka it should be called a vodka martini; or a vodkatini or kangaroo if you must. A martini is gin and vermouth with a garnish.

However, when it comes to shaking there can be no right answer. Shaking may “bruise” the gin or vodka, changing the flavour of the drink. But who is to say what flavour you or I prefer? And anyway, all the martini recipes in Harry Craddock’s hugely influential Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) are (reportedly) shaken.

The change in flavour comes about not because the spirit is  bruised but rather from the aeration of the drink, leading to additional oxidation of the ingredients. The drink may also be more dilute because of the ice chipping and melting while being shaken; the aeration and ice particles result in a cloudy appearance.

So, the right way to mix a martini , vodka martini, or any other drink is however you like it best. If that means stirring, stir it. If it means freezing the ingredients, freeze them.

And there is nothing wrong with asking for your martini, made with either vodka or gin, to be shaken, not stirred. James Bond would tell you to enjoy your drink exactly how you like it; anyone telling you otherwise is a pretentious idiot.

You can read more about James Bond’s drinks here

Photo: “Olive Eyes” by Quinn Dombrowski used under licence CC BY / caption added to original

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