Stirred, not shaken

Sitting at the bar in the new Westin in Napa, considered to be the top, new hotel in Downtown Napa, I figured their bartender would know how to fix a martini.

But no, I was wrong. When my Tanqueray 10 martini with a twist was delivered in front of me, I was disappointed — yet not surprised — to see the little transparent flakes of ice floating on the surface of the drink. These small shards indicated that the martini had been beaten and bruised as the bartender shook it with violence in a cocktail shaker.

The classic martini should be stirred, not shaken. As a rule, all clear cocktails should not be shaken. I have found that I have to specify that I want my martini stirred and not shaken. Even this step, however, can sometimes not overcome the idea that has been burned into bartenders’ heads that martini means that lovely shaking sound and motion of moving a shaker up and down. At the bar at the Carneros Inn, another swanky bar in Napa, I ordered a martini, stirred with a twist, and sat there dumbfounded as the bartender proceeded to shake the the hell out of the drink in front of me mere minutes after taking my order.

What’s the big difference you may ask? It’s because shaking a martini leaves those shards of ice that disrupt the cold smoothness of the drink and the violence of the shaking dissipates the subtle and wonderful aromatics that float off a fine gin such as Tanqueray. Now, if you’re drinking a vodka martini, I guess shake until your wrists burn, because vodka is boring and the recipe for the classic martini doesn’t call for vodka anyway. Perhaps Mr. Bond can be forgiven by misleading Americans into thinking a martini must be shaken, because he in fact wasn’t ordering a classic martini anyway.

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