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Inspired by a question about shaking vs stirring--part of what is unusual about Mr. Bond's request is that a martini is typically stirred rather than shaken; the normal reason given is that one stirs the drink to avoid bruising the gin.

I can understand bruising in the context of, say, leafy vegetables, or herbs. But gin? I'm just not sure what it means--or is it just part of bar mythology?

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As an aside, some feel that making Bond's signature drink the shaken Vodka Martini rather than the Vesper was one of Ian Fleming's greatest mistakes. – BobMcGee Jun 14 '12 at 4:50

3 Answers 3

According to some, aerating the gin by splashing it around alters the flavor, or "bruises" it; or more perceptibly, one would be likely to quickly notice the little bubbles disrupt its normal tongue/palate texture.

From Wikipedia, "Shaken, not stirred":

Some connoisseurs believe that shaking gin is a faux pas, supposedly because the shaking "bruises" the gin (a term referring to a slight bitter taste that can allegedly occur when gin is shaken). In Fleming's novel Casino Royale, it is stated that Bond "watched as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker," suggesting that Bond was requesting it shaken because of the vodka it contained. Prior to the 1960s, vodka was, for the most part, refined from potatoes (usually cheaper brands). This element made the vodka oily. To disperse the oil, Bond ordered his martinis shaken; thus, in the same scene where he orders the martini, he tells the barman about how vodka made from grain rather than potatoes makes his drink even better.

Better, from the Martini FAQ;

...while we should all defer to the inimitable Mr. Bond on matters such as high-tech spy gadgets, impromptu hand-to-hand combat, and retrograde seduction techniques, his reasoning on this matter is specious. To "bruise" a wine or spirit means to take some action that changes its taste. Agitating and therefore aerating a gin or vodka martini changes its taste: it makes it taste "sharper". It imparts a certain bite or zing. Given this, and given his dislike of a bruised spirit, Bond should insist that his drink be "Stirred, not shaken," since shaking "bruises" the gin more than stirring does.

...Here are the facts: Shaking cools a drink more quickly. Shaking is more likely to chip small shards off the ice, some of which will make their way into the drink, no matter how carefully one strains and pours. Which may be part of the reason why... Although the gin spends less time with the ice when the drink is shaken, shaking a drink actually dilutes it more than stirring does. Very rarely, shaking can produce a chill haze (the precipitation of very small solid particles) from the vermouth, giving the drink a cloudy appearance. Shaking creates tiny bubbles in the mix, which temporarily impart a cloudy appearance to the drink. Shaking causes a certain class of molecules in the liquor (aldehydes) to combine with oxygen more than stirring does. The oxidation of these molecules also slightly alters the flavor, making it "sharper" (Miller, Anistatia R. and Jared M. Brown. Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini. New York: HarperCollins, 1997).

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Shaking gin releases oils found in the juniper berry and produces a little sharper or bruised taste

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The concept of bruising gin is equal parts truth, and wank. Truth in that it does somewhat alter if not the taste per se, then at least how it rests on the palate. Wank because really, of all the words we could use to describe this effect... aerating, berating, incloudulating... 'bruising' seems to be the tossiest.

Source: my knowledge of all things wank, wank-like, wankesque, and wank-foolery, as evidenced by my use of the terms 'per se', 'palate', 'as evidenced', and 'thirst world' (wait a sec)... and my willingness to invent whole new words and phrases to illustrate a largely irrelevant and completely first-world (or thirst-world - BAM!) point.

There are certain cocktail which I feel benefit from a severely 'bruised' gin. A Last Word, for example, or indeed any of the so-called 'corpse revivers'. Those drinks I like cloudy, sharp, and punchy. A Martini, on the other hand, should be made thus:

Chilled to within an inch of sanity, by way of pre-chilling the gin (only necessary in hotter climes), pre-icing the class AND garnish, and of course stirring with ice. The resultant beverage should be so crystal (from lack of shaking and more importantly from lack of Vermouth), that one can clearly see through it - to the bartender - who is dutifully making your second round. And YOU, dear sir, should tip that bastard generously. He has a beard to feed.

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