COLORADO SPIRITS: Distilled Agitation Means Stirred and Not Shaken


    Those two ounces of gin swimming with an ounce of vermouth aren’t quite as important as a newborn baby. And the rye whiskey swirling in a mixing glass with an ice cube and a few splashes of sweet vermouth isn’t as adorable as an infant, either.

    But you still shouldn’t shake any of them.

    Be it whiskey, baby or gin, shaking simply is not done.

    Just ignore the overused, ill-informed advice of a certain dashing British spy — who, if we’re being honest, always lacked the wit of Maxwell Smart, the brawn of Harry Tasker and the grace of Emmett Fitz-Hume or Austin Millbarge.

    And even with vodka, it’s best to avoid that vigorous shake you see so many bow-tied dinguses behind the bar revel in — though experts are a bit more split about the risks shaking poses to the neutral-ist of neutral spirits.

    When it comes to complex liquors like whiskey and gin, which boast a variety of aromatic notes to complement those complex flavors and boozy punch, a vigorous shake knocks the edges off your booze by forcing air and water from the ice into the precious, precious liquid. You’re hydrogenating and oxygenating your expensive booze, and pretty much nullifying all the amazing and subtle things you spent so much on and what took so very long to create.

    Mitch Abate, head distiller at Downslope Distillery, said if he walks into a bar and sees the bartender shaking away at a mixer full of whiskey, he cringes.

    “But I keep my mouth closed,” he said with a laugh.

    That shaking, Abate says, robs a whiskey or a gin of the aromatics that make them worth drinking, he and many experts like him say.

    Others call it “bruising” the liquor, but the idea is the same: Stirring a drink helps the cocktail maintain the variety of flavors you’re looking for and chilling it to that perfect cool on the inside, slightly sweaty glass on the outside, delectability. Shaking, while it might give the drink that layer of frost on top some folks adore, and it certainly drops the temperature a few extra degrees, makes it less flavorful.

    Abate said the solution is to simply reach for a spoon instead of the shaker. The spoon will combine the liquors, he says, and it won’t rob you of that eye-rolling taste you’re looking for.

    The Aurora Martini

    We’re in a profession where drinking comes as easy as a second-day lede. Trust us. We drink everywhere, and we ask lots of questions. When it comes to the perfect mile high martini, we’ve got the story.

    You’re going to need four things: A bottle of Denver Dry Gin, available at area liquor stores or the source at Mile High Spirits in LoDo. A bottle of Dolin Dry Vermouth. Don’t substitute. It’s pretty easy to find. Fresh ice cubes made from decent water, not those white-furry things you’ve had in the freezer since Christmas. And a Spanish olive. A real one, not those red-pepper stuffed things in giant jars next to the pickle slices. These are easily found at cheese shops, delicatessens and pretty good grocery stores.

    That’s it. For equipment, you need a glass or stainless steel mixer, about the size of a beer pint, which will work. You need a cocktail strainer. Don’t use your hot little greasy fingers. Just don’t. A martini glass. And a toothpick to spear the olive. All of these little gizmos are available at the dollar store, or you can spend plenty at specialty shops. Save your dough for the booze.

    Denver Dry Gin makes the best martini ever, and there is no argument. It’s smooth, because it’s not jet fuel, and it has subtle notes that aren’t so subtle they get lost in the ice, the cold and the vermouth. It’s a classic gin that makes a classically pleasant martini. If you’re looking for something with more bite and odd flavors, you’re not looking for a martini.

    Dolin vermouth is the best choice here. It, too, is subtle. The herbal notes are there, but not there in your mouth fighting your taste buds into submission and stealing the show from the gin. Just make sure it’s fresh, not greasy from having spent who knows how long above the stove, hiding behind the knock-off Bailey’s since when Clinton was First Lady. It’s not expensive, but it’s important.

    Fill the martini glass with water and ice and let it chill while you make magic.

    Fill the mixing glass almost full with ice.

    Pour 2 oz of Denver Dry Gin over the ice.

    Pour 1/2 ounce of Dolin Vermouth into a tiny little glass. Take a tiny little sip and pour the rest into the martini mixture. It’s good, huh? A 1/2 ounce jigger is too much for this subtle gin. A 1/4 ounce add is too little and too “dry.”This is martini gin, not an heirloom.

    Now stir this with a glass or stainless steel spoon. Don’t shake it. Don’t even stir too hard. Don’t take so long, the ice is melting. You know a martini is ready to pour because of the sound it makes being stirred. It starts as a dull clunking as the spoon and ice and vessel fight each other, and suddenly, after about 15 seconds, the pitch changes to a delightful clinking harmony, and you’re ready to serve.

    Empty the chilling martini glass and light wipe the wet off the outside.

    Pour the martini into the glass, using the strainer to hold back the ice.

    Drop the speared olive into the mix, just one olive. Pop more in your mouth if you want, but salty olives can ruin the effect you’re going for here if you get too many in the mix.

    And sip. See? Told ya.