What Did Ian Fleming’s James Bond Actually Drink?

First of all I need to apologise.

This question, posted on Facebook that led to some 100 comments and guesses has an answer none of you are going to like. I’m sorry, however it all makes sense below.

What did James Bond, the original superstar spy (oxymoronic hey?) drink?

Answer: A lot, it was never just one thing, it evolved from book to book, movie to movie.

And that is unbelievably cool.

Here’s why; Ian Fleming is pretty damn well thought of for so many aspects of his writing and especially for how he developed a perfect sociopath in James Bond. One aspect no one has properly studied is his use of alcohol as a literary tool and where his inspiration for all these drinks came from.

Simply put; by pure coincidence Ian Fleming and the subsequent under license writers, have written the history of drinking trends for the past 60 years.

Scotch, when not single malt, is intended to be drunk with soda. On the rocks wasn’t even a thing until around 1952 and certainly wasn’t the popular drinking style until well into the 80’s.

Brandy, when not decent armagnac or cognac, should likewise be drunk with soda as that’s how people drank it for decades.

When the Americano made its popular revival Bond was suddenly drinking those.

In the very first examples of premium champagne advertising in the U.S.A. and the U.K. there was one known fact. When wooing women with class, you pour certain brands of champagne that had particularly well known vintages.

When the Russian gangs began to smuggle in and out of the Soviet block, they paid people in vodka instead of money. Suddenly these U.S. import magnates, politicians and restaurants were all espousing the qualities of vodka so that they could finally get some cash for their nefarious dealings.

It became so popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s that vodka outsold every other spirit after decades of being the least popular. Watch how vodka suddenly appears in the movies and how it suddenly becomes more prevalent in the books too. That’s some Original Gangster impact right there.

To remain uniquely english Bond never appears to drink whisky on the rocks (an American affliction that lead to chill filtering in single malts, I still haven’t forgiven them). Bourbon and scotch are both drunk either with soda or straight, bourbon especially straight.

Read the books and notice how this appears after the screenplays became popular movies, you are seeing a bit of popular history happening right there as bourbon was poorly thought of for a long time before movie stars like Bogart were drinking fingers upon fingers of the stuff with no ice or mixer in sight. These same famous stars were instrumental in the rise of vodka as well, Sammy Davis Jnr is documented to have been particularly fond of vodka and dry vermouth shaken over ice (sound familiar?).

I know I’m an alcohol geek but isn’t this actually kind of cool?

Ian Fleming also wrote the first cocktail recipe ever created for a fictional character in the Vesper… which is honestly just a cold way of smashing your teeth in with alcohol but fair effort Mr. Fleming.

Bond has forever been more than just a poster boy for luxury brands, he was the idol of all aspirational masculine ideology. Ian Fleming, however, took his inspiration from what defined class, extravagance and offhand luxury to create the sort of carefree life only a spy destined to be killed before retirement could ever hope to lead.

There is something about what we drink, it defines us by brand, type and how much we know or care about it. The reinvention of Bond in the most recent movie Skyfall has shown us a scarred, dangerous and deeply disturbed gentleman, whose sense of duty and honour make him a powerful protector and loyal friend.

Most importantly it shows his preference for that most refined of gentlemen’s drinks; single malt scotch.This in itself is a tip of the cap to the second scotch boom we are currently experiencing with record after record for bottle prices being smashed at auction. The most refined of these single malt distilleries, the beacon to which al others compare themselves, is The Macallan and a bottle of the 50 year old (as horribly abused in the William Tell scene) goes for a fairly reasonable £30,000.00.

It’s not a bad drop either.

Till next time, drink with care.

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Bar owner, coffee roaster, mixologist of the molecular and enthusiast of all things grape, grain, sugar, honey and yeast related.