May 20, 2008

"Really, 007, Must You Keep Drinking Up All The Samples?"

How'd you like to be the lab assistant for these guys?

James Bond preferred his vodka martinis "shaken, not stirred", but is there any difference? Yes - according to a psychologist and chemist who like their science with a twist.

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Ian Fleming, creator of the world's most famous secret agent, Professor Charles Spence and Dr Andrea Sella will be unveiling the secrets of 007's favourite drink and a range of other cocktails, at a lecture at the Cheltenham Science Festival next month.

Prof Spence is a psychologist who has worked with molecular gastronomist Heston Blumenthal to unravel the secrets of how we interpret taste, while his fellow Bond addict is a chemist at University College London.

To these aficionados, the creation and presentation of a cocktail is a true science: "molecular mixologists" can create alcoholic alchemy, from Bond's dry martini to daiquiris and beyond.

Take the all-important issue of shaking rather than stirring the martini. In 1999, a group of students at the University of Western Ontario in Canada led by Colleen Trevithick (and overseen by her father John, a professor of biochemistry) decided to test Bond's preference in a series of experiments on gin and vodka martinis.

They studied the martinis' ability to deactivate hydrogen peroxide - a substance used to bleach hair or disinfect scrapes, and a potent source of the free radicals linked to ageing and disease.

While the detailed chemistry is not fully understood, martinis were much more effective than their basic ingredients - such as gin or vermouth - at deactivating hydrogen peroxide, and about twice as effective when shaken.

The martini must contain an antioxidant that deals with the peroxide, and which works better after shaking. (The olives that are normally added might also have an effect, but were left out as being "too difficult to model".)

In their analysis of the results in the British Medical Journal, the team concluded, reasonably enough, that Bond's excellent state of health "may be due, at least in part, to compliant bartenders".

Read the rest for lots of other cocktail info.

Posted by Robert at May 20, 2008 12:32 PM | TrackBack

Um, shaking is not a more effective mixing method than stirring?

Posted by: Captain Ned at May 20, 2008 09:35 PM

There are lots of molecular mixologists out there on them interwebs but for libation culture one should read Eric Felten's columns in the weekend Wall Street Journal. The recipes and drink suggestions are deliciously refined as well in my opinion. I do recall that Robert Bork wrote a letter to the editor disputing the martini recipe and came out against having a "salad" in one's drink.

Posted by: orglefan at May 20, 2008 10:49 PM