MI6: Martini Intelligence - Shaking (not stirring) up trouble around the world with Gin and James Bond

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Below is an excerpt from the October 2015 edition of GINNED! Magazine about Blue Bottle Gin from Guernsey. Every month, Craft Gin Club Members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins and gin complements accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of information about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.

Every respectable craft distiller has his or her own way of mixing their gin in the ultimate gin cocktail - the Martini. Matt Polli, the master behind Blue Bottle Gin, prefers his prescription with a dose of a heavy Scottish accent, specifically that of Sean Connery when playing the world’s most famous fictional martini drinker, James Bond. Bond became famous for drinking martinis on screen beginning with Connery’s portrayal of the international man of mystery in Dr. No in which he is seen drinking a vodka martini with a bottle of Smirnoff by his side. Because of this, and the fact that Bond never drinks a gin martini on screen, it is often thought that Bond is purely a vodka martini man (shaken, not stirred, obviously). 

But, by nature of writing you from a gin club, we know better and are here to defend our favourite white spirit.

It turns out that in Ian Fleming’s novels, Bond’s consumption of gin martinis rivals that of his vodka martinis - 16 to 19 respectively. We would hope that Mr. Bond as a Brit would show some patriotism whilst shunning the liquor of his Cold War enemies! Eight of those 16 gins, however, are handed to him by his American friend and CIA agent, Felix Leiter. As Matt likes to drink his martini in Guernsey with a hint of character impersonation, here we take a look at the occasions and locations in which Bond drinks martinis - both gin and vodka including some with Leiter - in the world’s most well-known spy novels. 

Blue Bottle Gin Martini Recipe

Blue Bottle Gin - double measure
Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth - 1/2 measure
Lime or grapefruit peel

1. Put ice in a cocktail shaker, pour the Noilly Prat over the ice, shake well
2. Pour out the Noilly Prat (save for your next martini!)
3. Pour the Blue Bottle Gin over the ice
4. Say something in a Sean Connery accent* and shake well
5. Strain into martini glass
6. Garnish with lime or grapefruit peel

*Blue Bottle does not accept responsibility for the reaction to your Sean Connery impression

THUNDERBALL - GIN MARTINIS (and a lesson on making them) - THE BAHAMAS

A royal hotel for a royal lesson in ripping off martini drinkers

A royal hotel for a royal lesson in ripping off martini drinkers

On the hunt for hijacked atomic bombs, Bond travels to The Bahamas to rendez-vous with his CIA counterpart and friend, Felix Leiter. Whilst awaiting their first lunch together, they drink one dry martini each, only to order two more before lunch arrives. 

Later in the book, they meet in the bar of the hotel in which they are staying - the Royal Bahamian - where Leiter gives the barman a lesson on making martinis. Miffed at the huge olive that the barman dropped in the bottom of the glass - a trick used by bartenders to extend the life of and profits on their spirits bottles - Leiter orders the glass returned and the olive removed to show that without the olive, the glass is only half full. He then orders two martinis with Gordon’s, full glasses with lemon peel on the side. Bond is impressed.

The hotel in which this important life drinking lesson goes down is today owned by a Sandals in Nassau, a resort chain proud to speak of its connection with Mr. Bond and its filming locations.


The St. Regis: not a bad place to live and let live.

The St. Regis: not a bad place to live and let live.

Bond ends up in the Big Apple drinking gin martinis on two occasions in Ian Fleming’s novels and both times with his Texan CIA friend, Leiter. The first occurs in 1954’s Live and Let Live at the St. Regis Hotel where Leiter orders Bond a martini made with House of Lords Gin, Martini & Rossi vermouth and lemon peel slices. At the time of the novel’s publication, Booth’s Gin owned House of Lords which was an American gin. 

The St. Regis maintains its historical location at 2 East 55th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue where the American business man and real estate tycoon John Jacob Astor built it to complement the Waldorf Astoria in which he also owned a significant stake. 

When Bond returns to New York in 1956’s Diamonds are Forever via Las Vegas while chasing a diamond smuggling operation, he and Leiter meet at Sardi’s, a Manhattan restaurant icon known for its caricatures of famous people hanging from the walls. Whilst Bond is in the loo, Leiter graciously orders him a medium dry martini with a “piece of lemon peel” and a Californian vermouth unfamiliar to Bond called Cresta Blanca. Bond promptly calls it “Best vermouth I ever tasted.” Sardi’s maintains its welcoming star-lit atmosphere at 234 West 44th Street between Broadway and Eight Avenue in the Theatre District where it has served cocktails since 1927. 


Bond got pissed at Piz Gloria on vodka martinis

Bond got pissed at Piz Gloria on vodka martinis

Bond goes under cover to meet the villain that plagues him in three novels along with Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, Ernst Stavro Blofield. In this particular situation Blofield is planning biological warfare on the UK to ruin their post WWII economy. 

Whilst sitting at his hotel bar and attempting to remain undetected, Bond orders a double medium-dry vodka martini with lemon peel (the ice cubes help to hide his identity as no respectable martini drinker would ask for ice in their glass), a martini he follows up with the following day with a couple of double vodka dry martinis: no ice on that round as his cover was already blown.

The choice of location leads to adventure, including one of the most famous movie scenes when bond escapes via ski, Piz Gloria, a mountain-top restaurant in the Swiss Alps which claims to be the world’s first spinning restaurant. The restaurant maintains a James Bond tribute to this day, no thanks to the financing that the producers of the Bond film contributed for the restaurant’s completion.


Martini on the rocks slide

Martini on the rocks slide

In London, Fleming throws in the additional twist of Bond getting served a martini by the book’s Bond villain, Sir Hugo Drax, who had plotted to destroy London by spearing it’s heart with a nuclear-tipped missile. Despite the film spanning memorably (or not so much depending on your opinion) from England to California to outer space, Fleming’s novel takes place entirely in dreary old England.

Whilst visiting Drax to learn more about the Moonraker missile he is building, Bond is offered a dry martini which he deems “excellent” and asks for another which Drax’s henchman Krebs gladly pours him. Not long after, Bond and one of his many ladies are swimming in the English Channel beneath the White Cliffs of Dover only to suffer an avalanche attack, the type of rockslide that has been happening more recently at the cliffs in recent years. Sounds like a good excuse for another martini.


Do they serve Vesper's in Trouville? Or is that Royale-les-Eaux?

Do they serve Vesper's in Trouville? Or is that Royale-les-Eaux?

Fleming opted to use a fictional town for the location of Casino Royale, a place he called Royale-les-Eaux, which was described as being close to the mouth of the Somme River in the eponymous French département. Casino Royale features the famous scene when Bond gives the bartender at the casino very specific instructions about the drink that he’s after, a drink purportedly created by Fleming to suit his character and his own tastes - the Vesper (Fleming was a huge consumer of alcohol, particularly gin). Bond’s drink, which he enjoyed accompanied by his American CIA friend Leiter, called for “three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”

This is the only time in the Bond novels that the Vesper appears and also the only time that Bond willingly orders what could be considered a version of a martini (although, for us gin fans, he does order Pink Gin in one novel and a Negroni in other novels). 

Royale-les-Eaux is thought to have been modeled on the French seaside town of either Deauville - where the French elite maintain their non-Parisian homes - or Trouville, not quite as posh.  

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