Are Martinis good for You? How about pure vodka?

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

What are the benefits of drinking Martinis?  Is vodka good for you?  Is Martini good for you?  Two top surgeons explain.  

At the roof bar of the Istanbul hotel, I don’t notice a thing.

Below us, the Bosphorus sparkles in the setting sun.  I slurp my cocktail and feel a powerful sense of well-being.

When we sit down for dinner, however, I spot it at once.

‘You’re both drinking vodka,’ I say.  ‘Why is that?’

My dinner companions, both top cardiac surgeons, glance at one another.

Shaken not stirred
Robert Pimm in Istanbul

At a “Spectre” premiere in Istanbul.  Lousy movie but inspired character (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site)

‘This is because pure spirits are the healthiest way to ingest alcohol,’ one surgeon says.  ‘Of course, not drinking alcohol may also have health benefits, although some studies indicate the opposite if consumed in moderation.  But if, like us, you enjoy a drink from time to time, without excess sugar and calories, pure spirits are the best.’

‘Wow.’  I sip my glass of red wine and wonder if I should have a re-think.

I am cautious about fads.  Despite the authoritative advice of my Turkish friends, I continue to drink – in moderation – a range of alcoholic beverages.

But that roof-top dinner did start me mixing Martinis.  I use the classic “Vesper” recipe popularised by Ian Fleming in his first James Bond novel, “Casino Royale”:

“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”

As Felix Leiter comments: “Gosh, that’s certainly a drink.

Until I had the health advice from the two cardiac specialists, I rarely drank Martinis and tended to see them as a kind of conservative ’50s throwback.  The whole subculture around making the driest possible Martini (“show the vodka a photograph of some vermouth”) seemed a bit silly.

Now, I realise I could not have been more wrong.  Martinis have countless benefits.  Fewer calories than a G&T, less sugar than a glass of wine.

I make my Vesper Martinis with Stolichnaya vodka and Gordon’s gin direct from the freezer (no need for anything fancier), with vermouth from the fridge, no ice, and a fresh green olive (rather than the lemon peel specified), served in second-hand martini glasses from the Naschmarkt in Vienna.

Serving Vesper Martinis in Vienna.  Who knows why I’m wearing oven gloves?

Do martinis make me healthier?  I am not sure.  But I feel splendid after drinking one.  The tang of salt as you approach the olive is sublime.

What are your favourite Martini recipes and experiences?  Thoughts welcome.

P.S. Although I often find Bond movies and novels disappointing, I find the character of James Bond outstanding; and keep hoping that the next film will be better (cf my post Spectre: five reasons to miss it & five reasons you’ll see it).  You can read the results here:

P.P.S. My own two most recent books are: Seven Hotel Stories and Blood Summit.


P.P.P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please subscribe to my weekly newsletter (you can unsubscribe anytime you wish).  Or I would be delighted if you would like to friend me on Facebook.  


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2 Responses

  1. Gordon’s!! I think you can do better.

    I like to use Botanicals from Islay, or a rather good Mediterranean gin from Barcelona.

    There’s an excellent section on martinis in Ten Cocktails by Alice Lascelles, which I was given for Christmas and is a thoroughly entertaining read.

  2. Martinis absolutely must be stirred or shaken with ice (preferably stirred). It’s not just about temperature, but dilution. Tanqueray for a gin martini, or Russian Standard for a vodka martini. Enjoy.

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