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goodies, baddies, gadgets and international spy rings. Dry martinis would probably have evaporated had it not been for Bond and he is credited, almost single-handedly, with elevating vodka from the humble peasant drink it was post-war to its present status as one of the world’s best-loved spirits.
In the first chapter of Casino Royale, the first Bond book, we discover that he has lit his 70th cigarette of the day and by the end of the novel he has downed his 13th different drink. Our introduction to 007 and alcohol comes in chapter five when he orders an Americano (a cocktail of Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water) in the bar at the Hermitage Hotel.
A legend is born when he issues a special instruction to the waiter.
“A dry martini,” he says. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Just a moment. 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. Got it?”
Yes, James, we got it. But, leaving aside the “shaken not stirred” argument, it had to be vodka, didn’t it? Why couldn’t beer have been his choice? Bond is the quintessential Englishman, after all, and it’s the nation’s drink. Had Ian Fleming not been such an old snob, he could easily have guided his hero along an ale trail. That done, beer would now be a suave, slick and sophisticated drink for aspirational professionals. And, if only Bond had instructed the waiter with something akin to:
“Premium English Bitter. One. In a deep tapered, short-stemmed and unpretentious 13-ounce Pilsner glass.”
“Just a moment. Tap it gently to hear the distinctive ping of fine crystal. Serve at 12ºC and pour gently and steadily down the inside of the tilted glass. Gradually steepen the angle and pour more directly to allow for zesty carbonation and a robust head of 25mm. Got it?”
If only that conversation had taken place, vodka would have remained the relative curiosity it was in the early Fifties. Beer, glorious beer – every regional variation of the stuff through every style, colour, aroma and flavour – would be the drink to be seen with; the drink to impress with and the drink to wake up in the morning with to slug in the company of a beautiful Russian spy. We would have no need of alcopops or novelty mixers – drinkers the world over would know the difference between a Bock and a Brown Ale, a Scotch and a Stout, a Light and a Heavy, and would count on Dubbels and Tripels for a singular experience.
Sadly, Bond hardly ever seems to touch beer. According to members of the Commanders Club – a group of Californian 007 devotees who are high on Bondage snobbery – champagne and bourbon are ten times more likely to wet Bond’s whistle than beer in any of its guises.
However, after planting a homing device in Auric Goldfinger’s car in the eponymous novel, he has a pint in a pub in Rye in Sussex. We’d like to imagine it would have been the Ypres Castle, an unspoilt pub with superb views over the harbour, which keeps Adnams Broadside, a well-balanced, fruity, bitter-sweet ale; Harveys XX Mild, a malty session beer, and Pett Progress, a hoppy, full-bodied strong bitter from the local Old Forge brewery, alongside an ever-rotating list of guest beers.
“In Geneva, he’d drink a Lowenbrau,” says a Commanders Club spokesman. “In the States, it’s a Miller’s High Life; a couple of Red Stripes in Jamaica and as many as four steins of local brew in Munich if in the company of an ex-Luftwaffe pilot. But he eschews English beer. It, like cider, belongs in pubs... and 007 does not.”
It’s probably worth noting that Commanders Club members dress up, too.
In Live And Let Die, Bond has 23 drinks and no beer; he has 18 in Moonraker (no beer); 26 in Diamonds Are Forever (including a pint of Black Velvet – equal amounts of champagne and Guinness); 18 in Dr No (no beer); 14 in The Living Daylights (no beer) and one each in From A View To A Kill and For Your Eyes Only (neither of them, sadly, beer). It’s only in Octopussy that Bond fails to have a drink of any sort. He is offered a rum and ginger ale by Major Dexter Smythe and turns it down. Perhaps, for once, he should have been allowed to really fancy a quenching, refreshing, cool brew following a bout of spycatching, but Fleming would rarely have allowed him that luxury, preferring his creation to sip ice-cold Vouvray.
What we do know, however, is that without beer and after six-and-a-half decades of drinking champagne and vodka martinis; 65 years of womanising, crashing cars, escaping bombs and exploding helicopters, riding avalanches, burning bridges and saving the world from bowler-hatted madmen, James Bond is still going strong and about to tackle his 27th movie.
Some of us are obviously doing something wrong – all that action, a lifetime of no beer, and 007 still looks like Daniel Craig…
A BEER FOR… JAMES BOND?
Just about 65 years ago, Ian Lancaster Fleming was sweating over a typewriter in Jamaica, desperately trying to get his new hero’s drinking habits into shape.
Today we are very familiar with his main character, Bond, James Bond – Agent 007 of the British Secret Service – lapping up Oddjob, SMERSH, Miss Moneypenny, M, Pussy Galore, Aston Martins, BMWs and an endless list of
IT'S ABOUT EVERY AGE GROUP
More than ever we need pub owners with the vision and determination to do something that will persuade people to venture out on a wet Tuesday when Holby City might seem the better option. We have plenty of them around the North East and the better ones are doing very well, thank you very much.
Entrepreneurial publican Dave Carr is one such chap.
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Alastair Gilmour writes about beer and breweries and pubs and people from a variety of perspectives. Media outlets include The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne; Brewers’ Guardian, and Cheers North East.
Meet and Drink writer Alastair Gilmour regularly conducts beer events throughout the UK and internationally – tours and tastings that have included a platform suspended 30 metres above the River Tyne and a real ale festival in a Moscow nightclub – and was for several years on the judging panel of the Pilsner Urquell International Master Bartender programme. [READ MORE]
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