Volume 85 Issue 41 | p. 5 | Letters
Issue Date: October 8, 2007

Martini Chemistry

Department: Letters

Eben Klemm's remarks in Newscripts on the release of more antioxidants in a shaken martini compared with a stirred one (C&EN, Aug. 6, page 48) reminded me of previous links between the martini and chemistry periodically mentioned in Ken Reese's Newscripts in the years 1971–97.

I wrote a short note with an accompanying table using the martini as a means of enlivening solution concentration problems that are part and parcel of any introductory chemistry course (J. Chem. Educ. 1967, 44, 199). I asked my class how many times stronger in alcoholic content a "super-strong" martini (100:1) is than the standard 3:1 variety.

When students make the actual calculations, they receive a real surprise. The alcoholic content rises from 37.0% for the 3:1 drink to only 42.8% for the 100:1 drink. In fact, the alcoholic content is 43.0% for pure gin. The increase between the two extremes is only 6.0%—a classic example of cognitive dissonance. The calculations impress on students the fact that the intuitive, "obvious," prima facie answer is not always the correct one and that in many cases detailed quantitative calculations may yield results that at first may seem contrary to "common sense."

In a later article (Chem. Ind. 2001, 24, 795), I pointed out that although shaking produces a colder cocktail more quickly than stirring, a substantial part of the martini's charm is its "eye appeal"—its clear, almost scintillating translucence. A stirred cocktail will remain clear, while a shaken one will be cloudy or muddy because of dissolved air, especially if vermouth or other wine is present.

Readers interested in the detailed chemistry, history, and assorted lore of the martini and its ingredients may wish to consult my illustrated article (Chem. Educator 2001, 6, 295).

George B. Kauffman
Fresno, Calif.

 
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