You’d think it should be very simple: a martini is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth; a vodka martini is a cocktail made with vodka and vermouth. But do you shake or stir your cocktail? Does it matter? And can a real martini be made with anything except gin as its base?
As for the particular vodka martini so beloved of James Bond, that’s another cocktail altogether and we’ll look at the recipe for that later on.
Vodka martinis, consisting of vodka and vermouth, became popular in the mid- to late-twentieth century. Ian Fleming, author of the series of novels involving James Bond, was largely responsible for the upturn in popularity. In the very first Bond novel, Casino Royale, James orders a vodka martini and requests it be shaken.
The image of Sean Connery, in evening dress, enjoying a vodka martini was enough to spawn wannabes all over the world and the vodka martini took off in a big way.
Purists may still object to it being called a martini and accuse it of being tasteless but for many people, when they order a martini cocktail they mean one made with vodka.
- Put the bottle of vodka in the fridge for a few hours before making these cocktails. Alternatively leave the bottle in the freezer for a short time.
- 1½ shots vodka
- ¾ shot dry vermouth
Place vodka and vermouth in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Serve with an olive.
Cranberry Vodka Martini
- 3 shots vodka
- 5 shots cranberry juice
- ½ shot vermouth
Place the vodka, cranberry juice and vermouth in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well. Pour into martini glasses. Serve with a slice of lime.
Now for that James Bond vodka martini.
(As specified by Bond in Casino Royale and named after the beautiful double agent)
- 3 measures Gordon’s gin
- 1 measure vodka
- ½ measure Kina Lillet (today known as Lillet Blanc)
Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.
- Lillet Blanc isn’t a vermouth; it’s a French aperitif, blended from wine, liqueurs, fruits and herbs. When mentioned by James Bond it would have contained a level of quinine that would have resulted in a very bitter taste, leading novelist Kingsley Amis to suggest that Ian Fleming had got it wrong when inventing this drink. But we’ll never know as in 1986, the recipe was changed and the level of quinine reduced.
- It’s been said that, unless a vodka martini is ice cold, it will have the flavour of lighter fuel.
- A martini that is shaken with ice will be colder than one that is stirred.
- Thus shaking is preferable for the vodka martini cocktail.
- Shaking a martini will result in the drink being aerated: tiny bubbles of air will be forced into the cocktail changing the flavour slightly.
- A gin martini is intended to be smooth and gin-flavoured. Experts say shaking ‘bruises’ the gin, making it too sharp.
- So stirring is best for gin martini cocktails.
One final point in favour of shaking: research published in the British Medical Journal showed that shaken martinis have considerably more antioxidants than stirred martinis and thus are better for your health!
But as James Bond said in the remake of Casino Royale in 2006, when asked if he wanted his vodka martini shaken or stirred, ‘Does it look like I give a damn?’