Monday, July 2, 2012

To Stir or to Shake

(my take on Martinis for Playboy's Bond edition)

Think cocktails, and Martinis appear – quickly, with James Bond not far behind, but one man's perfect Martini is another man's Molotov cocktail. How much vermouth, how much gin? Bond’s preference for shaken not stirred suggests a mix but with the driest of Martinis, the glass is rinsed with vermouth – the rest is gin. Could Bond have liked his martinis sweet, even wimpy?

Bond's Vesper Martini (with a twist)
 Throughout the 22 James Bond movies, numerous cocktails, Champagnes and beers have made an appearance. Reports are that the new bond film – “Skyfall” – will set new records for product placement. So, is Bond a heavily disguised brand ambassador with a taste for wimpy martinis? As long as he gets to kill, maim and fornicate, Joe Public doesn’t seem to care.

It does look like Skyfall is going to be a windfall for Bond. On this occasion he is going to be drinking Heineken, or Heinie as some Americans say. Now with all due respect to the beer and Bond’s usual preference, I would imagine that Bond did not accept a mere six pack of Heinie in return (rumoured to be $40m).

It’s been a lot easier for some South African wine producers. American Jeffrey Deaver enjoys the Cape winelands and he – as author of Carte Blanche - has Bond sipping on Rustenberg’s Peter Barlow 2005 and Cuvée Clive, Graham Beck’s Grand Marques bubbly.

Cuvee Clive

But the pregnant pause given to ‘shaken not stirred’ in the movies ensures that we will forever associate Bond with Martinis first. The reason Bond prefers shaken not stirred is that he is in a hurry to save the Queen and shaking chills faster than stirring. And unlike his preference in women, frigidity is highly desirable in all cocktails. This also answers a question I have posed for many years – surely Bond would be stirred and not shaken?

This little bit of detail also saves Bond from serious accusations that he could have preferred a sweeter martini. A stirred martini remains clear, while a shaken one becomes cloudy.  French vermouth, the fortified, herbed wine used to make a dry martini, also makes a martini cloudy, thus Bond could say ‘it’s dry’ without a flinch.

For this writer the magic ingredient in a martini – besides top notch botanical gin like Bombay Sapphire – is French vermouth like Noilly Prat. For one it certainly won’t add sweetness like some Italian vermouth (cheekily marketed as Martini) and secondly, it adds to the aromatics and savouriness of a classic martini. You should also get a green olive rather than the pickled onion of a Gibson de Luxe (so named before Mel).

However, for legendry Cocktail author David A Embury, the Martini de Luxe contains two ingredients, three if you include the olive, four if you include the ice. That’s one part French vermouth, seven parts best gin – imported English for him.

Dry sherry - fino or amontillado, is a good substitute for vermouth, mix one part sherry with five parts gin. If the quality of the gin is not the best, less is more.

Taking in both the books by Ian Fleming and the films, Champagne is mentioned 35 times, vodka martini 22 times and red wine 10 times. Smirnoff is Bond’s official vodka. 

Bond’s Top 10
Number one on the Bond drinks hit list is the drink he claimed to have invented, the Vesper Martini. He requested a drink of his own invention, which would later be referred to as a “Vesper”, named after the Bond girl, Vesper Lynd, in the book and later film “Casino Royale”.A Vesper differs from Bond’s usual cocktail of choice, the martini, in that it uses gin and vodka, Kina Lillet instead of vermouth, and lemon peel instead of an olive.

Bollinger, Dom Pérignon and Taittinger are Bond’s preferred choices of Champagne throughout his numerous adventures.

In “Casino Royale”, where Bond wins the Aston Martin DB5, he orders a “Mount Gay Rum with soda”.

In “Goldfinger”, Bond orders a mint julep, adding with a smile: “Sour mash, but not too sweet, please”. Julep also made famous by Daisy in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Bond’s enjoyment for a Scotch and soda is most easily seen in the books, as it is referenced a total of 21 times.

The Mojito is one of the few cocktails ordered in the 007 movies not to originate in Fleming’s novels. Piece Brosnan was the actor who ordered the drink in the 2002 film “Die Another Day”.

Red wine never really makes much of an impact in the Bond series. Although he did tend to favour Château Mouton Rothschild: a 1947 vintage featured in “Goldfinger”, a half bottle in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, a 1934 ordered by M in “Moonraker”, and a 1955 in “Diamonds are Forever” – where a vinous faux pas from Messrs Kidd and Whitt led to their explosive demise.Bond is seen indulging his love of Bordeaux once again in “Casino Royale”, where 007 enjoys a bottle of ’82 Angelus on the train.

Skyfall is not Bond's first Heineken. In “Goldfinger”, 007 favours Heineken and he is seen in “Quantum of Solace” drinking bottled beer when meeting with Felix Leiter in a Bolivian bar.

The Americano - This is a significant departure from Bond’s drinking habits and it is the introduction to his refined drinking style. The cocktail is mentioned a few times throughout the series but it is in “A View To A Kill”, that Bond reveals it is not a “solid” drink; and the cheapest way to improve a poor drink is with expensive soda water. 

(Ref for top 10 - Drinks Business)


  1. I specifically recall Smirnoff playing a very prominent roll in the later Pierce Brosnan movies - product placements galore.

    I can't really fault the man's taste in booze - Mouton Rothschild and the different Champagne houses in particular... but Heineken... dear lawd. Thats like putting on a tuxedo and then riding a donkey.

  2. ja just not El Burro. which makes me think of the cars as well, wonder what Aston paid - as appeared before product placement era but have featured since including trashing a few - or if they considered part of the furniture.