Believe it or not, one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to drinking well is a fictional character. Then again, it makes sense that many men wish they could be James Bond: He travels around the globe saving the world, drives awesome cars, has amazing gadgets and always gets the girl. For me, however, it comes down to something more than that. My fascination with the man centers on his superior level of education and sophistication when it comes to ordering food and drink.
Bond’s expertise in these areas is no coincidence. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, was a major bon vivant and, basically, an extraordinary character — he was a strategic planner of the 30 AU (Assault Unit) and a Lieutenant Commander in Navel Intelligence (Code name 17F) during World War II.
Apart from his decorated military history, Fleming was a well-educated man born of privilege, and had memberships to London’s most exclusive clubs. He often dined and drank at some of the world’s most renowned restaurants and bars. It is often said that while Fleming based the character on many of the people he worked with, Bond’s fondness for food and drink was grounded in the author’s own taste.
Bond is perhaps most famous for drinking a martini “shaken not stirred.” But throughout the books, however, he drinks only 35 martinis (19 vodka and 16 gin) compared to over 100 whisky drinks. (Somebody counted that up for us). Notwithstanding, the most notorious of Bond’s martinis is often thought to be the Vesper martini, which mixes both gin and vodka.
The Vesper martini
3 parts Gordon’s gin
1 part Russian vodka
1/2 part Lillet
- Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a large lemon twist.
Fleming created this drink at the Duke’s Hotel in London with Italian bartender Gilberto Preti. He was a member of the Boodle’s Club on St. James and would pop across the street to visit the Dukes and sip a few martinis. Fleming placed their creation into his first Bond novel, Casino Royale:
“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.” “Oui, monsieur.” “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?” “Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea. “Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter. Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”
There is, of course, much more to Bond’s drinking than martinis. The first cocktail he ever orders is an Americano using Perrier (expensive soda water is the cheapest way to improve a poor drink) and he has a taste for the Old Fashioned (Live & Let Die). He also has a keen appetite for champagnes such as Krug, Dom Pérignon and Taittinger, which he sometimes drinks with scrambled eggs and caviar, Ian Fleming’s favorite food.
Equally impressive as Bond’s upscale taste is his knowledge of wine vintages. In Moonraker, he sips Dom Pérignon 1946 and Château Mouton Rothschild 1934. Another reason I admire Bond is his propensity to drink just about everything: Stingers and a Black Velvet (Diamonds are Forever), Pink Gin (The Man With The Golden Gun), Sazeracs (Live & Let Die) and a Crème de menthe frappé (Thunderball). He also tries unique and different spirits like raki, ouzo, kavidere (Balkan wine), Marsala and Steinhäger gin, to name a few. He even has his own hangover cure, brandy and soda with a couple of Phensic tablets (aspirin and caffeine). Simply put, the man knows how to drink!
James Bond is a drinking inspiration because he drinks just about anything and everything. Moreover, he has a skill for drinking at the right place at the right time, and with the right food and company. Fleming certainly passed on his good taste to Bond and it continues to live on today through the films.
The new Bond film Skyfall is out this November amid much anticipation. I was a little disappointed to hear, however, that through the powers of product placement, Bond will be drinking a Heineken. I guess that business is business, and hope that Fleming is doing OK in his grave. I do enjoy a Heineken, but then again, if I had Bond’s budget and stress, I would be sticking to the fine champagne and large martinis.
Try these James Bond recipes:
1 part Campari
1 part sweet red vermouth
Top with soda
Pour the Campari and vermouth over ice into glass, add a splash of soda water and garnish with half orange slice.
The Pink Gin
3 parts Plymouth gin
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill mixing glass with ice. Add Plymouth gin and Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled and strain into a (chilled) cocktail glass.
Angostura bitters were invented as a remedy for stomach complaints. The medicine reached the British Navy, who added it to their Plymouth gin rations – hence ‘pink gin.’
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