For Your Ice Only

Ahead of the publication of Shaken: Drinking with James Bond and Ian Fleming, we take a look at the role drinks play in the James Bond novels.

‘James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.’ (Goldfinger)

From the very first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in which Bond christens The Vesper, to the immortal lines, “shaken and not stirred,” strong carefully crafted drinks are at the heart of every Bond story.  Ian Fleming was very particular about the finer details of his hero’s lifestyle.  As well as 007’s drinking habits, his clothes, weaponry, cars and food are all described with precision, a narrative trait which is perfectly highlighted by his instruction on how to make the perfect Martini.

‘The waiter brought the Martinis, shaken and not stirred, as Bond had stipulated, and some slivers of lemon peel in a wine glass. Bond twisted two of them and let them sink to the bottom of his drink. He picked up his glass and looked at the girl over the rim. ‘We haven’t drunk to the success of a mission,’ he said.’ (Diamonds Are Forever)

© Fay Dalton 2015 – Casino Royale

The particular attention that is paid to how eggs should be scrambled, how a car should be customised and how best to serve vodka, are all testament to the writer’s own preferences.  Though many have debated how much of Ian Fleming there was in James Bond, there has always been agreement amongst fans that Fleming shared his own tastes and enthusiasms with his character.  Along with the advocation of particular brands, these strokes of realism provide a layer of truth and help to bring the fantasy of James Bond’s world to within the readers’ reach.  ‘All these small details’, Fleming wrote, ‘are ‘points de repère’ to comfort and reassure the reader on his journey into fantastic adventure.’

In a feature entitled ‘London’s Best Dining’ for Holiday magazine, Fleming provides a tip for American tourists on how to sample a decent Martini, showing how much it mattered to him beyond the pages of his novels.

‘it is extremely difficult to get a good Martini anywhere in England. In London restaurants and hotels the way to get one is to ask for a double dry Martini made with Vodka. The way to get one in any pub is to walk calmly and confidently up to the counter and, speaking very distinctly, ask the man or girl behind it to put plenty of ice in the shaker (they nearly all have a shaker), pour in six gins and one dry vermouth (enunciate ‘dry’ carefully) and shake until I tell them to stop. You then point to a suitably large glass and ask them to pour the mixture in. Your behaviour will create a certain amount of astonishment, not unmixed with fear, but you will have achieved a very large and fairly good Martini.’

Paying attention to exact details are crucial skills for any spy who wants to complete a mission successfully and safely.  The life of a secret agent is one of daring action and life-threatening peril.  James Bond’s preference for the finer things in life suggests that when the moments of danger have passed, pleasures should be indulged.  Enjoying the very finest dover sole and a glass of chilled champagne provides 007 with a reward and pushes his experiences to the height of sophistication and quality, in those brief respites from danger. ‘There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent… occasions when he takes refuge in good living to efface the memory of danger and the shadow of death’ (Live and Let Die).  As well as enjoying the pleasures of drinking, alcohol serves to ease the conscience of a cold blooded killer such as 007, and provides moments of relief in a life of violence and upheaval.  Drinks play a soothing role in the James Bond novels and offer a well-earned splash of luxury after a long day spent navigating the dirty business of spying.

Shaken: Drinking with James Bond and Ian Fleming is out on 6th September and features 50 cocktails inspired by the characters and plots of the 007 novels, created by the team at award-winning Bar Swift in London’s Soho.