The word bruise first appeared in ninth-century Old English, at which time it was spelled “brysan”.
It was a reference to crushing or damage by hitting with a blunt instrument.
However, in Shakespeare’s pre-1600 “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, there’s an illustration of an emerging usage in the quote, “I bruiz’d my shin th’ other day.”
Shakespeare didn’t mean the shin had been crushed, he meant that it had received a heavy (but not catastrophic) blow.
Can you bruise gin?
You can bruise gin. It means to shake the gin in a cocktail to dilute it. By the 1600s, the old sense of “bruise” was lost, and the word “bruise” no longer meant “mangling and crushing”. Instead, it had come to mean ‘to deliver a blow that discolors the skin without breaking it’. “Bruise” has gone on to receive a range of literal and figurative meanings. Peaches and egos can be bruised, for instance–and so too can gin. So yes, you can bruise gin.
A serious look at gin and all about bruising gin
Mr. Bond is undoubtedly the expert in all matters involving advanced spy gadgets, ingenious hand-to-hand combat, and surprisingly effective seduction methods.
However, his regard for having his martini shaken rather than stirred is somewhat bogus.
To bruise a spirit means to take any action that alters the flavor. Consequently, shaking and aerating gin alters its flavor and makes the drink taste sharper.
This is why, if Mr. Bond James Bond really wanted some bite and zest to his drink, he should have had his martinis stirred, not shaken.
Shaking gin cocktails cools them faster.
However, shaking will more likely chip tiny pieces off the ice and cloud the cocktail.
So, even though the gin has less time in the ice when the drink is shaken, shaking the cocktail can dilute the drink more than mixing.
Another thing shaking does is produce tiny bubbles within the cocktail, which will create a cloudy look in the drink.
Shaking triggers a specific group of molecules in cocktails (aldehydes) to mix with oxygen more quickly than stirring does.
The chemical oxidation can also alter the taste, making the drink sharper.
Shaking a gin cocktail releases more ice into the drink
When you shake, you release more ice from the cocktail than when stirring, altering the drink’s taste.
Thus, shaking adds more ice, which means more dilution than stirring. To get the same level of dilution through stirring, it would be necessary to stir for much longer.
Despite several trials, to be completely honest, I’ve never tasted a difference, and neither have any of my friends whom I have pressed into service as guinea pigs.
But what does it even mean to bruise gin?
To bruise the gin is an appropriate term for the effects of shaking rather than stirring a cocktail based on gin, generally an alcoholic martini.
Although the expression is intriguing, it doesn’t really have much significance. Yes, there’s some speculation that juniper berries are fragile, and, as the main ingredient in gin drinks, heavy shaking could cause them harm.
However, no one has ever served a cocktail with gin in it that contains juniper berries suspended in the liquid, so this can hardly be a matter of real concern.
It’s a wonderful delusion, but that is all it is.
The serious, straightforward answer
Bruising gin means shaking it to dilute it, as say, when making a gin cocktail.
The humorous, long answer
Claim. Juniper berries, as well as the herbs that are used to flavor gin, are thought to be delicate. Swirling the gin around is said by some to harm that delicate flavor the same way as it would for most fruits dropped on the floor.
Reply. Nonsense! Just imagine the amount of shaking that bottles of gin have to endure simply getting from the distillery and onto the supermarket shelves.
Claim. Bruising gin necessarily bruises the ice too. A vigorous swishing of the ice in cocktail shakers causes the ice to release tiny pieces.
Reply. If you suffer from cryophobia, maybe you shouldn’t be ordering an icy cocktail in the first place.
Claim. Some snobs believe that only fruit cocktails must be shaken and that all other cocktails should be stirred.
Reply Why should anyone else’s preferences dictate yours? How you like your drink ought to be the only metric that matters.
Claim. Cocktails containing fortified wines, liqueurs, and spirits should be stirred rather than shaken because an excess of oxidation makes the entire drink less than the sum of its parts.
Reply. The claim–a quote by a gentleman of some repute–appeared in a respected magazine. Unfortunately, it is utter drivel. Sure, lab studies have been conducted regarding the advantages of shaking over stirring.
It turns out that shaking can indeed cause an increase in the amount of oxidation in a liquid. Although the increased oxidation could change the drink’s taste, perhaps not even the world’s greatest super-taster could detect the distinction.
Given the number of flavors and the amount of fluid present, there’s no way your tongue would be able to taste the tiny increase in alcohol molecules that have been oxidized.
What bruising gin all comes down to
Chilling the drink. A solid shake made when large cubes of ice are in your drink will chill the drink quickly and completely.
Stirring would take significantly longer to chill, but from the point of view of the end result, it is just as effective as shaking.
Furthermore, either method that delivers exactly the same degree of chill in both drinks will result in the same amount of dilution.
Presenting the drink. A firm shake will add tiny bubbles to the drink, which stirring doesn’t do.
Cocktails that should be transparent (such as gin martinis) ought to be clear.
Shaking them and making them cloudy would probably come across as amateurish and gauche.
Should you bruise your gin cocktail?
Well, it comes down to personal choice.
If you don’t mind waiting for that first sip of your gin cocktail and you’d like it unclouded and clear, then your cocktail will need to be gently stirred.
On the other hand, if you are in a frantic hurry to get that first delicious jolt of your cocktail because it’s been that kind of day, bruise the heck out of the gin.
Frequently Asked Questions About Can You Bruise Gin
What is gin?
Gin is a distillation of alcoholic drinks that gets its primary flavor from juniper berries (Juniperus communis). It was a medicinal drink made all over Europe by monks, particularly in the southern part of France, Flanders, and the Netherlands. Gin was first introduced in England as jenever, a Dutch and Belgian spirit that was initially used as a drug.
How much alcohol is in an average gin?
Generally, gin contains about 40% ABV (alcohol by volume). In fact, by law in the US, to be a gin, the alcoholic content of the liquor cannot be lower than that. On the other hand, the alcohol content of some gins can reach as high as–or even higher than–50% ABV!
Afterword: Can you bruise gin?
It turns out that you can “bruise” gin, given that the expression merely means “to shake the gin in a cocktail to dilute it”.
There’s no apparent explanation to clarify why the word “bruise” was originally applied to describe the process of shaking a gin cocktail to dilute it.
Unfortunately, that will have to remain a mystery for now.