While it’s true that in the films James Bond is associated with ordering his martinis to be served with vodka rather than gin, in the books he is rather less fussy. He does give a recipe for a vodka martini however, in Live And Let Die, which is six parts vodka to one of gin, although he neglects to instruct Solitaire to shake it for him.
In some respects gin and vodka are quite similar, being strong and colourless. However, while vodka is filtered so that it is pure and has little flavour – not flavourless as some people claim, otherwise – assuming same ABV content – there would be nothing to differentiate one particular vodka with any other.
Still not convinced? I was once served a complimentary glass of vodka in a restaurant and- to the amazement of one of my dining companions – instantly recognised it as Absolut, which he verified with the waitress. On the other hand, gin has been distilled and filtered, but is then flavoured by a mixture of botanicals including juniper, with each gin having a different mix.
One thing that will change the flavour of your martini, whether made with vodka or gin, is the strength of the spirit. Many spirits these days are just 37.5 percent ABV and while Gordon’s, for example, may say that their recipe remains unaltered, the fact of having a different strength alcohol means that the flavour IS changed.
There is much debate about martinis and whether they should be shaken or stirred. If you want to drink like Bond then definitely shake, whether it’s gin or vodka. The reason for saying this is simply that Ian Fleming wrote an article aimed at Americans travelling to the UK that gives exact instructions of how to go into a pub and ensure you are served a large Martini – and that includes the instruction to shake vigorously until ice cold.
However, if you don’t like it served that way then don’t order it like that. Shaking martinis makes them colder, no matter what anyone says – I’ve read many people say that in fact stirring makes colder martinis but that simply isn’t my experience, although it would be a pretty straightforward experiment to set up.
And I’m willing to concede that it may be that the ice chips in the drink make it feel colder in the mouth as they melt. However, since what you are drinking is nearly pure spirit, it makers sense to me that you might want to dilute the alcohol a bit, especially if drinking a higher proof vodka or gin. At the end of the day though, the choice should be yours. If a bartender gets snooty with you because you ask for it this way or that, tell him you’ll drink elsewhere in future – and stay away.