Drink of the Week: Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (TCM Fest 2016 Salute #2)

Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.When superstar film distributor Michael Schlesinger introduced 1934’s “Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back” at TCM Fest 2016 as the greatest movie we in the audience had never seen, I was inclined to be skeptical. After all, as a lifelong film geek, I’ve heard that one a lot. I was there because I’d long been curious about Drummond, an early pulpy prototype for James Bond created by one H. C. McNeile, aka “Sapper.” I was expecting a historically interesting movie but not one that was likely to become a huge personal favorite.

Imagine my surprise when the movie turned out to be about as good as Mr. Schlesinger had suggested. Indeed, while I remember a theatrical spoof I saw as a young teen, “Bullshot Crummond,” being very funny, it’s hard to imagine it being half as amusing as the film, directed by the highly prolific Roy del Ruth, and co-written by the almost as prolific and incredibly witty and versatile Nunnally Johnson (who also co-wrote last week’s beverage-inspiring “The Keys of the Kingdom“and was a close personal friend of my childhood hero, Groucho Marx).

“Bullshot Drummond Strikes Back” is filled with enough self-referential comedy and wit to play beautifully in the post-“Austin Powers” era, and it’s blessed with top-drawer pacing and a borderline superhuman lead performance by the always super-suave Ronald Colman. In this film, Colman seems to exist in a sort of alternate universe of perfect confidence in the face of numerous socially awkward misadventures as he continuously stumbles over dead bodies, while constantly interrupting the sleep of an increasingly apoplectic Scotland Yard colonel (C. Aubrey Smith) and the wedding night of his hilariously stolid sidekick (Charles Butterworth).

Of course, not just any drink would do to honor a film like this. I decided it had to be a brandy-based variation on a Vesper. The Vesper is obviously because of the 007 connection. (Fleming once admitted that Bond was “‘Sapper’ from the waist up.”). The brandy is because, as is the fashion in so many 1930s films, gallons of it is consumed during “Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.” Indeed, Drummond actually uses it to revive an drugged noblewoman…medically questionable at best. I also threw in an assortment of supremely English and continental ingredients, and I rather like the results. Like the Vesper, it’s a very big drink, but it goes down way easier.

Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back

2 ounces brandy
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/2 ounce gin
1/4 ounce Pimm’s Cup
1/4 ounce creme de cassis
1 lemon twist (highly recommended garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously, as Ian Fleming would no doubt have us do. Strain the result into a large cocktail glass, add the lemon twist, and contemplate how much more fun life would be if we all could deal with the stresses of daily life with the complete lack of undue concern with which Bulldog Drummond routinely saves the British Isles.


I tried Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back with three different types of gin — Plymouth, Bombay Dry and Gilbey’s — and two inexpensive brandies of varying quality, Reynal and E&J VSOP. All three gins worked about equally well, though I’d add that the slightly less dry Plymouth is perhaps ideal for this subtly sweet, ultra-sophisticated little number. As for the brandy, though I’m not a big fan of E&J, it brought a deliciously malty flavor to the Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back that was even better than when I used the always reliable Reynal, my default French brandy.

Of course, there’s a lot more than brandy and gin in this drink. So, yeah, this is a drink with a great many ingredients, and probably not many of you will be able to try this at home without investing in a few new bottles. Still, if you haven’t tried a Pimm’s Cup, or Lillet Blanc, or cassis, you really should. (Even if I only caught up with the last one a short time ago myself.) The whole idea is to come up with an enjoyable drink that doesn’t take itself one bit seriously. I’ll never be as self-confident as Ronald Colman’s Captain Drummond, but I think I possibly nailed it with this one.

Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.