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Bruising Gin

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Posts 155
angus Posted: 15 Feb 2009 10:23 AM

Now some of you may have been following the rather acrimonious discussion over on Webtender about whether or not one can "Bruise" gin when shaking  a Martini and in fact what one means when one talks of "bruising" a spirit.

Now this is one of the things that is often mentioned (and seemingly never forgotten) by young bartenders and novice drinkers alike and I wondered what this esteemed group felt about it.

Are we talking aeration via shaking or over-dilution?

Is gin the only spirit that can be 'bruised'? And why does it seemingly only refer to martinis as opposed to any other gin drinks?

Is it all hokum and balderdash? 

I personally think this is a perfect area for Molecular Mixology to study and be interested in (as opposed to the Progressive Cocktail School) and maybe Jamie B et al. have already investigated?


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Posts 1,173

I fully believe the warning about "don't bruise the gin" was simply a cute turn of phrase that somebody came up with. It sounds appropriate, and far more so when said in front of a bartender who is shaking the living daylights out of your Martini. It also has that nice bit of ironic comedy which so many people love to dish out.

Somebody of course took this comedic phrase too seriously, and decided it must be describing an actual result, and then tried to deduce what it might be refering to, and they saw that a clear (ok, cloudy) result of shaking was aeration, and therefore this must be what it was refering to.

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Posts 82

I assumed this was the process used to make "blue gin".

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Posts 153
David Wondrich replied on 15 Feb 2009 2:01 PM

Wild Bill Turkey:

I assumed this was the process used to make "blue gin".


Here is, I believe, my first ever post on DrinkBoy, January 14, 2002:

 If a new member may dip his oar in--Laying aside what it's come to mean, it seems to me that the idea of "bruising" the gin may well have originated as a jocular import from the only other area of mixology where the term comes up, the debate about the proper construction of the julep, where crushing the mint is also referred to as "bruising it" (e.g., "Be careful and not bruise the mint"--Tom Bullock, 1917). One can easily construct a plausible scenario, thus--first man, to bartender: "I'll have a Julep--and don't bruise the mint." Second man: "Make mine a Dry Martini--and don't bruise the gin." Chuckles all around.

While I've learned a hell of a lot since then--not in the least from the discussions on DrinkBoy--I still think this is the most likely scenario.


What's going to happen to the DrinkBoy archives? A lot of good beverage in there.

Oh the Bartender is just like a mother to me / And I am his favorite child. --Slim Gaillard

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Posts 70

Ah, I was just about to ask if there were any theories about the origin of the phrase, and Mr. Wondrich beat me to it.

I'm in the midst of rereading one of my favorite books, Luis Bunuel's autobiography My Last Sigh, and there's this line from Chapter 6:


"I never drank so much in my life as the time I spent five months in the United States during Prohibition.  I had a two-fingered bootlegger friend in Los Angeles who taught me that the way to tell real gin from ersatz was to shake the bottle in a certain way.  Real gin, he assured me, bubbles"

Nothing but a wild guess, but could this have any part in it?  Shake it enough to check it, but not enough to bruise (or as Angus says above, aerate) it?



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Posts 9


am pretty sure the shaking of the bottle was to check the strength of the spirit... spirits over 40%abv can create a nice bead of bubbles on top, although you'll get a far better result when the spirit strength gets closer to 50%abv or 100 proof... same concept has been applied to whiskies and rums etc...




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Posts 174

When I asked John Gertsen about this when he was still bartending at No. 9, he made me a pair of 3:1 martinis - one shaken and one stirred.  Side by side, it was apparent that the shaken one was more sharp and the stirred one was more smooth.  Same approximate ice melt and final volumes.  I am not sure if it was the gin or (more likely) the vermouth that changed.  Separately, each was a fine enough drink, but next to each other it was detectable.  John's explanation was the amount of aeration affected the botanicals in the components.

Probably in a darker liquor or if there was juice or other in there, the differences would be harder to notice.

Boston Bartender. Writer Cocktail Virgin blog & author Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book.

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Posts 215

I think that comparing martinis are not the best way of settling the subject. Vermouth is a FAR more sensitive component than the gin, if (IF) anything does happen it might possibly be the vermouths reaction to the "aeration".

Do two tests. 1) shake gin. sir gin. same

                         2) shake vermouth. stir vermout. same dillution , compare.


my bet is that there will be a slight difference in the vermouth rather than the gin, if any.


I write even more of this drivel on

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Posts 17

I asked Rob Dorsett about bruising, who has been making gin for 30+ years, and he laughed at me, and pointed out he essentially boils it, stirs it up in big air tanks and then sends it of in barrels on the back of a truck to be bottled. If gin could be bruised, it would happen long before we make the Martini.

I wonder if Somerset Maugham started the rumour,,,?

"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other."

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Posts 71

i'm a firm believer that the flavour profile of any spirit can change when oxidised enough. i tried a small experiment with Johnnie Walker Black. i noticed that if there were about 75ml of johnnie walker black left, I closed the lid and swirled it a bit. I found it becomes slightly smokier, bordering on a Talisker flavour. i noticed it after making a couple litres of Whiskey sours with the scotch, it was quite a different flavour.

In the case of bruising the gin in let's say a martini, there are two factors, one: Vermouth basically a crap wine. Any wine, regardless of its quality, WILL oxidise. Brandy changes, whiskey changes and so on.

So if a spirit that relies so heavily on botanicals such as gin, could be affected by oxidation as well.

Forgive me for not remembering which bar-nerd stated it, but he called it a 'chill cloud'. but for me the cloudiness is the result of severe oxidation. the air takes longer to escape the spirit.

but i'm from a third world country....

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Posts 205

  All said - I still have a problem with shaking gin with citrus.  Yes, citrus cocktails are allowed to be shaken, but I have this odd inability to shake even a Jasmine or a Blue Moon.  

  Simply said - I can't do it.  

  And, since today I bought some beautiful new stirring spoons, it will be more and more difficult to shake anything in the future.  

  To me, there is just a question mark when I'm at a bar and the bartender wills shake such drinks, and I'm left to wonder, 'Does he/she shake everything?'  Well, the easy answer to continue to watch what the bartender does with other cocktails, but that's not the point.  

  Anyway.  Interesting thread all the same.

Liberty Bar  ::  Seattle, WA  ::  Alcohology

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Posts 1,173

They way I see it, the only time that stirring might be the "wrong" thing to do, is with something like a Ramos Gin Fizz.

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Posts 308

Now some of you may have been following the rather acrimonious discussion over on Webtender about whether or not one can "Bruise" gin when shaking a Martini...

My head is near bursting with some of the quotes made over there.  If you're going to have a belief then at least have some basis to it.

Let's not get started on religion though... Wink

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Posts 103

I once had a long-winded conversation with a 'spiritual ambassador' about whether or not James Bond's martinis were 'shaken or stirred'. I firmly believed that only the Vesper Martini was shaken in the books, the rest were all stirred. (The film versions feature all sorts of strange techniques - like the hotel waiter in Dr. No who jiggles a noiseless three-piece shaker before emptying a very insipid 'shaken not stirred' martini into a rocks glass - all seemingly without ice).

But I digress. This 'spiritual ambassador' insisted that to shake a Vesper Martini was to 'brutalize' the drink. I disagreed, calling up the following, rather un-P.C. quote: "A cocktail should be like a beautiful woman: it should be waiting at the bar when you arrive, it should be there just for you, and it should be winking at you." To me, the sparkle of a just poured 'shaken' Vesper is the 'wink'.

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Posts 38

I always thought the reference came from James Bond (via Fleming).

He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker” Casino Royale Ian Fleming 1953.

I'm sure there's another reference with more detail in the Bond books somewhere too...

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