Black Velvet

In Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond has just had his briefing with M and the Chief of Staff is trying to impress upon 007 how seriously their boss is taking the threat of American gangsters. Bond dismisses the group as “Mostly a lot of Italian bums with monogrammed shirts who spend the day eating spaghetti and meat-balls and squirting scent all over themselves.

Chief of Staff Tanner attempts to get Bond to understand the danger by citing the Kefauver Report and the fact that 34 murders were being committed in America every day.

Bond’s face relaxed. ‘Come on, Bill,’ he said. ‘If that’s all there is to it, I’ll buy you lunch. It’s my turn and I feel like celebrating. No more paperwork this summer. I’ll take you to Scotts’ and we’ll have some of their dressed crab and a pint of black velvet. You’ve taken a load off my mind. I thought there might be some ghastly snag about this job.

Scotts’ was a favorite restaurant of Bond’s (and Fleming’s) located at that time at 18-20 Coventry Street, Westminster.

While there was (and is) a Canadian whisky by the name of Black Velvet, it would appear here that Fleming is referring to a cocktail by the same name that is a combination of a black stout beer (like Guinness) and sparking white wine or champagne.

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The recipe is apparently equals parts of each, either just poured together, or layered in the way of a black-and-tan.

The story of the cocktail is that when Prince Albert died in 1861, the people were in mourning, and that the Steward of Brooks’ club ordered even the champagne to wear black – by mixing it with Guinness!

(Thanks to reader Donal for nudging me in the right direction on this.)

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Miller High Life

While on the road to Saratoga with Felix Leiter in Diamonds Are Forever, they stop for lunch at The Chicken in the Basket for lunch. The place seems dubious,

But the scrambled eggs and sausages and hot buttered rye toast and the Millers Highlife beer came quickly and were good, and so was the iced coffee that followed it, and with their second glass they got away from’shop’ and their private lives and got on to Saratoga.

In the short story 007 In New York, James Bond is pondering his midday dining options.

And what about the best meal in New York – oyster stew with cream, crackers and Miller High Life at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central?

Bond ultimately decides against this option, but clearly it is something he has had in the past. (We’ll look at the Oyster Bar in a future post.)

High Life is Miller Brewing’s oldest brand, dating back to 1903. Because of its high carbonation level, it is known as “The Champagne of Beers” this is perhaps why Fleming included in the the story. It comes in distinctive high-necked glass bottles to go with the champagne image. Miller High Life was considered a high-end beer for many years in the United States. Now, not so much. Because of the carbonation, it’s a decent drink on a hot summer day (like drinking an alcoholic soda) but isn’t good for much else.

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