The health benefits of Martinis?

Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

What are the health benefits of Martinis – if any?  Is vodka good for you?  Two top cardiac surgeons gave me their views.  

2 heart surgeons drinking vodka

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
At a “Spectre” premiere in Istanbul.It was a lousy movie

The health benefits of Martinis?

‘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.

Restrained passion is best?

Despite the authoritative advice of my Turkish friends, I continue to drink – in moderation – a range of alcoholic beverages.  I am cautious about fads – whether because I am British (75% English, 12.5% Scottish, 12.5% Welsh, by great-grandparents) or for some other reason, who knows.

My favourite Martini recipe

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.

Vesper Martini

I prefer my Vesper Martinis with an olive – and very cold.

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.

Gordon’s and Stoli

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.

Robert Pimm with Martinis

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.  If you would like to have a look at my other writing, check out my most recent books.  They include my own thriller, Blood Summit:

Blood Summit by Leigh Turner


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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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