The Spy Who Loved Martinis

The upcoming Bond film has a grim fate in store for 007.


Olives are not the only fruit.

Even as Hawkeye Pierce declared those of them doused in gin the only green vegetables he ate, a particular British secret agent scoffed at olives in his drink. Having cottoned on to the old bartender trick to fill a glass with large olives to skimp on the actual sauce, Ian Fleming’s James Bond preferred less obtrusive garnish for his cocktail, like a lemon peel. And unlike gin, which bruises easy, it’s perfectly permissible to shake vodka, which becomes colder on shaking. Hence those infamous dry vodka martinis ordered the way Sean Connery did.

Churchill opted for a glass of iced gin, drunk while looking at a bottle of vermouth; Noel Coward shook his glass in the direction of Italy, the land of the finest vermouth. Insisting on impossibly dry martinis — the more the spirit, the lesser the vermouth — has traditionally been part male-posturing, part call for potency.

True connoisseurs play it differently. In his very first novel Casino Royale, Bond put together a striking East-meets-West martini in honour of his heroine, Vesper Lynd. Combining British gin (3 measures) and Russian vodka (1 measure) with a half-measure of Kina Lillet, a bitter orangey aperitif, the drink Bond invents — “Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel,” he tells the attentive barman, later lamenting the fact that vodka from potatoes was used instead of grain vodka — is one he never revisits after Lynd is killed at the end of the novel.

The Vesper is a splendid concoction, and one that packs a nuclear wallop. Bond’s CIA chum Felix Leiter is taken aback by the measures. “When I’m… er… concentrating,” James explains, “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.” Classic 007, a tad drier than his drink.

All that changes quite drastically in the upcoming Bond film Skyfall, where that dashing secret agent of impeccable taste will order himself… a Heineken. The beer manufacturer, long been associated with the brand, is now forcing the cash-strapped producers to make James chug their wares. Perhaps even (horror of horrors) from a can. Egad.

Now this is going too far. Connery’s suits in the first few films, tailored by Anthony Sinclair of Savile Row, were fitted so immaculately that he eschewed belts and suspenders. By film 17, Pierce Brosnan was in Italian suits and had swapped his iconic Aston Martin for a generically flashy BMW. Bond’s innate Britishness, his ridiculously On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ways, has increasingly and tragically been homogenised, moulded to more modern tastes. And to sponsor demands.

As lovers of Bondage, we’ve sat back and accepted it all, even his current blonditude. We’ve taken it all on the chin. But leave the Commander’s damned martinis alone.

In Kingsley Amis’ Book Of Bond, the advice he gives double-o-aspirants about beer is that “you drink it occasionally; In Geneva, a Löwenbräu; in the States, a Miller’s High Life, a couple of Red Stripes in Jamaica and as many as four steins of local brew in Munich if you find yourself with an ex-Luftwafffe pilot. But eschew English beer. It, like cider, belongs in pubs and 007 does not.” As kids nowadays succinctly say, Word.

And here we have the vile Heineken. Shudder. It’s not even drinkable by beer standards. This is as diabolical a move from the Dutch firm as SMERSH could dream of, and one can pray that James winces ever so slightly — but unmistakably — at his first sip. It’s what Fleming’s man would have done. Shaken, just a bit.


First published Mumbai Mirror , April 11, 2012


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  1. Shan

    It’s a travesty, and I blame critics in no small part as well for not protesting more loudly. This kind of character change is happening all the time nowadays – e.g. Ritchie created a scruffy Holmes, when the entire character of Holmes is his fastidiousness and propriety of intellect. Next came a rough and tumble Bond who now likes beer? Why not make him a NASCAR fan while we are at it? What next, Cleopatra as a former freed slave gaining empowerment through seduction of Caesar? I refuse spend a single penny to watch these movies.

  2. KC

    Now that the producers are decided that Bond must drink beer, should they not at least ask if Dos Equis is interested?

    At least it’d tell us that he does not always prefer beer :-)

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