- G'day gang. I receive the digest but don't read it (will get back to
into it one day), but thought you might be interested in this article
from the London Telegraph. Keep the home fires burning! Boot.
Shaken, not stirred turns out to be the perfect recipe for healthier and
better-tasting cocktails, writes Roger Highfield.
James Bond prefers his vodka martinis "shaken, not stirred" but is there
any difference? Yes, say a psychologist and chemist who like their
science with a twist.
To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Ian Fleming, the 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 tomorrow at the Cheltenham
Science Festival in England.
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 fan is a chemist at University College London.
To these aficionados, the creation and presentation of a cocktail is a
true science. Take the all-important issue of shaking rather than
stirring the martini. In Canada in 1999, a group of students at the
University of Western Ontario decided to test Bond's preference in a
series of experiments on gin and vodka martinis. They studied the
martini's 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. The detailed chemistry is not
fully understood but 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.
In their analysis of the results, published 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".
And Sella believes that shaken martinis are not only healthier but also
taste better. This is due to what experts call "mouth feel". The shaken
martini has more microscopic shards of ice, making its texture more
pleasing. He plans to test this hypothesis at the Cheltenham Festival,
where he is expecting no shortage of volunteers.
So Fleming's creation obviously has impeccable judgment but some of the
scientific subtleties of cocktails do escape him. When Bond creates a
martini called the Vesper, named for his lover Vesper Lynd, he instructs
the bartender to: "Shake it very well until it's ice cold."
In fact, Sella says, cocktails are actually colder than ice thanks to
the same phenomenon that occurs when salt is used to keep ice off roads.
Salt does not actually "melt" the ice but creates a solution with a
lower freezing point. The same effect occurs with sugar, of which there
is plenty in cocktails. In the case of the Vesper it comes chiefly from
the addition of a French aperitif, Lillet.
Sella will demonstrate the colder-than-ice effect at the festival but
molecular gastronomists are already exploiting it as they experiment
with taste and temperature. At the famed El Bulli restaurant in Spain,
chef Ferran Adria has come up with the Hot and Cold Gin Fizz: a chilled
gin-and-lime liquid topped with a hot foam of the same.
The effect of cocktails is not just chemical but also psychological.
Spence explains that our perception of cocktails is affected by the
shape of the glass. People do not enjoy drinks as much if they are
served in a container they feel is inappropriate. Also, to maximise the
strength of the martini, make sure it's poured into a wide glass.
"Researchers have shown that people drink up to 88 per cent more when
consuming drinks in short, wide glasses than in tall, narrow glasses
that hold the same volume," he says. "Surprisingly, even experienced
bartenders fall prey to this vertical-horizontal illusion. One study
showed that veteran bartenders pour 26 per cent more alcohol into
tumblers than highball glasses when measuring out a shot of spirits."
The appearance of a drink can also affect how happy we are with it. Our
brains make a pleasant association between the colours of ripening fruit
and increased sugar content. "Such colours, particularly bright reds,
are powerful visual cues," Spence says. "When incorporated into a drink,
they can dramatically change the perceived flavour, as well as
increasing the perceived sweetness by as much as 12 per cent."
French researchers tested this by using an odourless dye to colour white
wine red. The wine tasters who tried the result used typical red wine
descriptors, suggesting that its colour played a significant role in how
they thought of it. "In cocktails, I'll look at how the very same colour
can lead different people to think of, and therefore taste, very
different flavours," Spence says. He also cites studies suggesting music
can affect how quickly we get through drinks: upbeat tunes in the
background lead to more cocktails being downed.
There are also differences in the extent to which people use their
senses to rate drinks. About a quarter of the population are
"supertasters", those born sensitive to bitter flavours who ignore
visual tricks such as dyeing white wine red.
Despite his excellent taste in shaking rather than stirring a martini,
Bond is probably not among their number; they would be likely to taste
the vermouth and olives as bitter and unpleasant. Instead, as with most
of the population, his perception would more likely be dominated by his
eyes. This neatly ties into other aspects of the Bond legend, Spence
says, in particular his liking for the best-looking women.