Friday Weird Science: Just the way you like it, Mr. Bond.

I’m an unabashed Bond fan. I have adorable memories of me and my brother, temporarily in harmony, watching “15 days of 007”. The only other time you got us together in front of the TV like that was “Shark Week”. I personally love the Sean Connery Bond, but I also have warmed to the Daniel Craig Bond. I do like ’em angsty.
So when I saw this article, in the British Medical Journal (give me a subscription to this and “Medical Hypotheses”, and all your Weird Science for the YEAR will be complete), I knew I had to blog it. It’s got a picture of James Bond as one of the FIGURES!!! BEAT THAT! Trevithick, et al. “Shaken, not stirred: bioanalytical study of the antioxidant activity of martinis” British Medical Journal, 1999.
Figure 1. Really!

And honestly, if I had this equipment and the ability to analyze alcoholic drinks, I would totally do it. For the good of science. Really. And they were funded by breweries and distilleries! I think I need to work for these people…
It’s common in the lore of alcohol that moderate consumption can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, presumably due to the antioxidant effects of alcohol, flavenoid, or polyphenol contained in the alcoholic beverage (this particularly applies to things like red wine). One can assume, based on the movies and books, that Bond is very healthy individual, and also that he consumed a certain number of alcoholic beverages. The authors wanted to know if Bond’s particular choice of beverage influenced his obvious physical health.
So as I’m sure many of you know, Bond prefers his martinis “shaken, not stirred”. Thus, the authors took samples of both shaken and stirred “mini-martinis” (6mL gin, 3mL vermouth), shook them or stirred them, and then looked to see if they altered the luminescence resulting from hydrogen peroxide, which would determine that the drinks did indeed have antioxidant activity. First, of course, they tested the antioxidant levels of gin and vermouth by themselves, and then looked at the mixture. Not only that, they also looked at samples of white wine and whiskey. Just for science, you know.
It turns out that vermouth is a much more potent antioxidant than gin, but that the combination of gin and vermouth was better than either ingredient alone! Not only that, the SHAKEN martinis had far more ability to suppress peroxide luminesence (they were better antioxidants), than the stirred martinis. You could get a similar effect by bubbling either air or nitrogen through the mixture as well, but not by stirring.
They also looked to see if these effects were due to levels of polyphenols, like those compounds found in whiskey and wine. They found that the martinis, though containing antioxidants, were low in polyphenols, a whole order of magnitude lower than wine or whiskey. So you want your polyphenols, drink wine or whiskey, but it appears that a good shaken martini will still deliver your antioxidants for the day. When in doubt, do it just like Bond likes it.
A couple of considerations for the authors:
1) Many people like their martinis dry. Your martinis (2 parts gin, 1 part vermouth) were most definitely NOT dry. Some of the most dry martinis (like mine) have only a passing aquaintance with vermouth, wherein the bottle is waved vaguely in the direction of the drink. Since the vermouth was found to be the source of most of the antioxidant properties of the martini, it’s very possible that a dry martini could have different antioxidant effects.
2) What about dirty martinis? What about olives vs. twist? It’s very possible that the presence of an olive or two, some brine, or a twist or two of lemon could change the antioxidant properties drastically. Since no one drinks their martinis without one of these two items (unless they are desperate, believe me, we’ve all been there), it would behoove the authors to examine their effects as well.
3) Do your research! Bond, James Bond, drinks VODKA martinis, not gin! Many of us prefer vodka martinis to gin, and not all of us can DO gin (I had a bad experience back in ’02, still can’t stand even the smell of juniper). Does the mixing of vodka and vermouth have different antioxidant properties than that of gin and vermouth?
4) Where does the name “martini” come from? I’m just wondering.
5) The “shaking” part of the assay was done with a 9mL samples in a 100mL bottle. No ice was added. I would be interested to see the effects of ice, as well as the effects if a smaller bottle had been used, as most martinis don’t really have that kind of space to be shaken around in. Additionally, the shaking was done for 1 minute, a lot longer than a normal bartender is likely to shake a drink. The stirred martinis were done in a 20mL vial on a vortex. The different volumes could have had an effect.
C C Trevithick, M M Chartrand, J Wahlman, F Rahman, M Hirst, JR Trevithick. (1999). Shaken, not stirred: bioanalytical study of the antioxidant activities of martinis British Medical Journal, 319 (7225), 1600-1602

5 Responses

  1. In the interest of science, I am considering buying a bottle of vodka, a bottle of gin, and a bottle of vermouth. Then again, I am re-considering such purchases as I know that I love martinis… gin or vodka. Martinis are the only drink that I have become falling-down-injuring-myself drunk on.
    That’s why I quit drinking them 20+ years ago. I love them… I do.
    Dirty martinis, chocolate martinis, etc., have no appeal to me. Give me gin or vodka, with or without the vermouth 🙂
    Why is it that I can drink scotch or bourbon straight without getting falling down drunk, but do not have that self-control with vodka or gin?

  2. The new Bond Daniel Craig looks awesome in his new role in the film Defiance. The film is about a brigade that hides in the forest, ambushes Germans and survives until wars end, eventually 1200 strong. Loads of information including the film’s official trailers and games are on the site

  3. There are any number of conflicting theories regarding the name ‘martini’, but the least far-flung assumes that it simply derives from ‘Martini & Rossi’ – an Italian vermouth bottler. Due to the popularity of their product, their name became quasi-synonymous with ‘vermouth’ in large parts of the world, thus also being associated with various vermouth cocktails.
    As a product of such inaccurate terminology, if you order a ‘dry martini’ in America or Britain today, you’ll get a drink that contains preciously little of the vermouth from which its name derives – but if you order a ‘dry martini’ in Germany or Italy, you’ll usually simply get a glass of dry vermouth, which might turn out to not even be of that particular brand.

  4. Since no one drinks their martinis without one of these two items (unless they are desperate, believe me, we’ve all been there), it would behoove the authors to examine their effects as well.

    Comrade PhysioProf always drinks his martinis with no fruit.

  5. Growing up in the San Francisco area, I learned to believe that the martini was based on a cocktail sold in gold-rush-era Martinez, a town between San Francisco and the Central Valley via water.
    Those familiar with the area may find it ironic that Martinez gives rise to Bond’s sophisticated drink.
    During the days of the “Gold Rush”, in 1849, a miner struck it rich and was returning to San Francisco. The miner, arriving in Martinez, the first large town he hit, wanted to celebrate. He walked into our leading bar and asked for Champagne, a beverage which was not available. However, the bartender told him (the miner) that he had something much better than Champagne and served a drink which the bartender said was a “Martinez Special”. The miner liked the drink and ordered for the house. After he woke up, some time later, he proceeded on to San Francisco where he immediately went to a prominent bar and ordered a “Martinez Special”. The bartender of course had never heard of the drink and asked the miner how it was made and where he had heard of the drink. The miner said that the drink was made with one part of very dry Sauterne wine and three parts of Gin, stir with ice and finish with an olive and was made in Martinez. The bartender tried the drink himself and liked it and of course had his friends drink it. Over a period of years the name Martinez (try to say it repeatedly) became Martini.
    Support from Wikipedia

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