James Bond: The Spectre of a Boozehound

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007 is many things – a near superhero, seemingly unafraid of death or anything else; a relentless womanizer, though occasionally heartbroken; and, of course, an inveterate boozer. One part connoisseur, one part super-functional alcoholic, there was a time when he appeared to never let the opportunity pass to show off his knowledge of all types of fermented beverages.

As of this writing, just a week before the worldwide release of the 24th canonical James Bond film on November 6, we don’t know for sure what JB will be imbibing in his newest adventure, although reports of an olive brine-infused dirty martini made with Belvedere Vodka have been circulating. We can tell you that, while a couple of true loves have come and gone through James Bond’s world over six decades of novels and films, his deep and intense relationship with booze is likely to remain eternal. What follows is a brief education on Mr. Bond and his deeply committed relationship with demon alcohol.

Shaken, not stirred

Ask any cocktail snob and they will tell you that, generally speaking, cocktails that do not feature fruit juices should be stirred, not shaken. Shaking is said to harm the taste of gin and “cloud” drinks  of all types with ice crystals, making them a tad less pretty. James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming – a snob of the highest order but not exactly a cocktail snob in the modern sense – simply detested stirred drinks and wanted them all shaken, all the time. So, when Bond ordered a martini, it was always shaken and never stirred. Personally, we think he’s wrong about gin martinis but right about vodka martinis.

The 21st century Bond derided the shaken/stirred controversy in the funniest line in 2006’s“Casino Royale” (“Do I look like I give a damn?” said a thoroughly stressed out 007 to a clueless barman.) He does, however, look on admiringly watching a shaken martini being made in 2012’s “Skyfall.”

First times and changing tastes

In Bond’s 1962 film debut, “Dr. No,” the first drink served to the movie James Bond was the shaken vodka martini. Shockingly, however, it was served in a very small Tom Collins glass. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The first drink James Bond ordered in the first James Bond novel, 1953’s “Casino Royale,” was an Americano, a personal favorite of this cocktail hound featuring Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water. Moving through the decades, the first drink Bond ordered in the 2006 film adaptation and series reboot was a Mount Gay rum and soda.. .a nod to the Caribbean resort he was staying in, no doubt. Fleming, a resident of Jamaica, might have appreciated the choice.

In the novels, Bond’s real favorite booze appeared to be bourbon in various forms. He drank lots and lots of bourbon — among many other things, of course. Indeed, except for a brief health kick described to humorous effect in the novel “Thunderball,” the James Bond of the novels never seems to stop drinking.

Goldfinger-gray-suit

Of course, man does not live by hard liquor alone. The Sean Connery-era movie Bond never seemed to touch beer; then thought of as a working man’s refresher. He did, however, knock back a Red Stripe or two in the novel “Dr. No” and you could see many bottles of it onscreen in the Jamaica-based 1962 film.

Today’s movie Bond seems to lean towards whoever’s paying for the marketing synergy, whether boosting Heineken beer in a lighthearted commercial or swigging the aforementioned Belvedere Vodka. Fleming, the pro-capitalist, would have approved, but Fleming the snob might have had mixed feelings about vulgar movie studios and their love of branding pimpery.

Attitude adjustment?

Looking at the more recent Daniel Craig 007 entries, it’s clear that Bond, the dashing bon vivant who had time to ensure that his cocktails were made precisely to his specifications, has left us. He has been replaced by an often troubled fellow who is less concerned that his booze taste perfect and more likely to engage in drinking games involving a live scorpion, or trying not to let the bad guy force you to shoot a woman in the head while aiming for a shot glass of 50-year-old Maccallan single malt.

Whether or not Bond spends his next movie imbibing nothing but dirty martinis and Heineken, or perhaps mixes thing up with several other drinks like he does in so many of the books, we do hope he gets more pleasure from his onscreen beverages.

Back in 2013, the British Medical Journal declared the literary Bond a Level 3 boozer who would probably not make it past Ian Fleming’s 57-year lifespan. If that’s the case, it’s better to enjoy all those drinks. We can’t help hoping that’s exactly what Bond does as he once again takes on his most hated enemies yet at the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. If your life is going to be a constant question of whether your drinking or your relentless acts of violent daring-do are going to kill you first, you might as well enjoy yourself.

  

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