Shaking vs Stirring: Can You Bruise a Gin?

Shaking vs Stirring: Can You Bruise a Gin?

Bottom Line: Nope, it’s complete bullshit. The only difference is a little in the presentation and the potential dilution of ice.

Now for the details:

There are apparently some out there who will claim that a gin can be “bruised” or otherwise a Martini can be ruined by shaking rather than stirring. They’re hard to find on a casual internet search yet at bars we see people clamoring for one style or the other. Martini people will tell you stirring is the preferred way if only for the clean, clear presentation. And every time a new Bond film comes out, there seems to be a new rash of those who insist on shaking causing great indignity with the Martini purists.

So what is the difference? Why the controversy?

We did everything we could to try to understand the difference in taste from a pure mechanical perspective: that is, let’s put this bruising myth to death once and for all. We took Tanqueray Gin, the classic London Dry gin, and put 2 ounces in a control (that is, we didn’t touch it). Then we shook up 2 ounces with slingshot ammo in a standard Martini shake. Then we really beat it up by shaking up 2 ounces with the ammo for a full 5 minutes. That ought to bruise some gin if it’s at all possible (it beat the hell out of our shaker). We stirred 2 ounces for a standard Martini. Then 2 we put 2 ounces in a blender for 5 minutes… again, if gin can be damaged, this ought to do it. After all that, was there any difference in taste?

Tanq Unblemished: The Control

This is the gin that suffered no harm at all save to pour it into a glass.

Juniper, other stuff, nice and sweet. Nice citrus note as well. Anyway, this is our control: are we going to get damaged juniper? Bruised lemon? Will the sweet go sour? Let’s find out…

Tanq Shaken: The Bond Version

This gin was shaken for a standard Martini amount of time but shaken with glass slingshot ammo to prevent dilution.  

One can kind of almost taste a heavier alcohol sting… but it’s so slight that we will admit it’s all in the imagination. Maybe it’ll increase with the Pulverized version.

Tanq Pulverized: The Blowfeld Version

This gin was not merely shaken but shaken 10x more than it should’ve been. Way beyond the pale.

Okay… no difference. We were unable to taste any difference between control and pulverized version. And looking back, there is no difference with the Bond version. Even casually sipping between the glasses no person was able to detect any sort of difference.

Tanq Stirred: Classic Preparation

This gin was stirred—though again, stirred without ice to avoid any dilution.

No difference… except, as we go along here, the Tanqueray is tasting better and better.

Tanq Blended: Charybdis Preparation

This was stirred in a Magic Bullet blender for five minutes… an absurd level of stirring.

Absolutely no difference. None. This is disappointing because that Magic Bullet really beat up the gin. There is absolutely no detectable difference in any of the 5 glasses.


So there you have it: gin cannot be bruised.

But there might be differences in the styling and taste in a true Martini. We made martinis with 3 ounces of Tanqueray Gin and 1 ounce of dry vermouth. We shook or stirred for the identical period of time (no garnish) and served. One round we served immediately and the second we allowed to return to ambient temperature.  

Tanq Shaken: The Bond Version

This gin was shaken on ice for 100 shakes.  

Initially, a big frothy ice cloud. It took an exact 3 minutes to achieve equal clarity with the stirred version.

The Blind Trials

There was some insistence that even at ambient temperatures the difference was present. This was supported by the fact that there was clearly different levels of dilution as measured by residual ice. But in 10 random selection in blindfolded trials, no one was able to accurately predict what they were drinking. No real difference: all in the head.

Tanq Stirred: Classic Preparation

This gin was stirred for 100 revolutions of the stirring spoon.  

Initially, the ice came out a lot more intact and the drink was actually colder. The appearance in the glass was clean and sharp and clear. There might be the tiniest difference in tastes with a sharper, cleaner taste on the stirred.


What did we learn?

While you can’t bruise gin, there is a subtle difference. Most of it is in the preparation. When the drink is first served, the shaken version (if properly shaken) will present cloudy and frothy. There will be a skin of ice shards on the top. Plus, you have to admit, it’s more fun to watch a bartender shake it rather than stir it.

The stirring will give you a clearer drink that will showcase colors or—in the case of a Martini—crystal clarity. For those drinks presented tableside where a garnish might be highlighted, this is the better presentation.

There is a difference in dilution. In our trials of identical ice shaken or stirred for an identical period of time, we found that the dilution volume (as measured by the residual ice) was substantially different. Shaken volume (as measured by the ice melt) was 1 ounce versus 1½ ounce on the stirred version. That’s a non-trivial difference (though it didn’t necessarily present itself in our blind trials).

Total Ice (liquid volume):     3.0 fluid ounces

Diluted into drink, stirred:     1.1 fluid ounces

Diluted into drink, shaken:    1.7 fluidounces

Still, this is a very subtle difference. Shaken, stirred, it doesn’t really matter except in the theatrics. 

So, in summary, this is pretty straightforward. Gin cannot, in any way, be "bruised"... at least we couldn't figure out how to do it while doing some violence to our shaker. There is a distinctive difference in the initial presentation of the drink and a potential difference in taste attributable only to the dilution of the ice. It appears to us that ice dilutes more quickly when shaken than when stirred for equal amounts of time and effort. This may be partly due to the fact that ice shards are likely to slip through the filter and into the drink where such a think won't happen under stirring conditions. Regardless, the difference here is subtle to the point of vanishing. That said, we largely prefer the stirring presentation. But one can do either without fear of hurting your gin, your martini, your credibility, your dignity, or anything else.

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