Gin and Tonic

In Dr No, James Bond arrives in Jamaica and is brought to The Blue Hills Hotel (Not Myrtle Bank, as, in an effort to protect his cover, he told the eager photographer)  by Quarrel, Bond settles into his room, showering off “the last dirt of big-city life: and pulling on his favorite Sea Island cotton shorts. He then sets about relaxing with a drink.

Bond ordered a double gin and tonic and one whole green lime. When the drink came he cut the lime in half, dropped the two squeezed halves into the long glass, almost filled the glass with ice cubes and then poured in the tonic. He took the drink out on to the balcony, and sat and looked out across the spectacular view.

It’s a fairly straightforward drink. A couple of items which I find worthy of mentioning here.

The Limes

First, the whole green lime. In the past when making this drink following the instructions above, I found it a bit of a challenge to fit both halves of the squeezed lime into the glass, along with the ice cubes, a double portion of gin (4 oz, at least) and the tonic.

When I went to Jamaica in 2106 and stayed at GoldenEye, there were limes provided in my bungalow as part of the mini-bar. I noted these limes were much smaller, paler, rounder and firmer than I was used to purchasing in the U.S, perhaps 1/2 to 1/3 the size of a supermarket lime. At first I thought maybe I had been provided some old shriveled limes, but upon cutting them, they were very juicy inside. They were also seedless. (No, they weren’t Key Limes.) When in the local markets, I saw all the limes for sale were also of this size and type. I’m fairly sure they were Persian Bearss limes, which are a variety grown on the island.

I remember it striking me then – this was probably the size of the lime Bond used to make his gin and tonic – it made sense; it fit into the glass better, leaving plenty of room for the rest of the ingredients, and it still contained plenty of juice. A small detail, and perhaps obvious to others, but something that clicked in and felt like a revelation to me at the time.

Supermarket (Mexican) lime on left. Persian lime on right.

The Tonic

As for tonic, I’d grown disillusioned with modern-day tonic water, the major brands are all sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. This ingredient did not exist in Fleming’s day, so I always felt I wasn’t getting an authentic taste for what they were drinking. (The same with other mixers such as ginger ale.) A few years ago I began seeking out smaller brands which were using pure cane sugar to sweeten the tonic water, brands like Fever Tree. I can honestly say that it does make a difference, so now, even though I don’t drink much soda or tonic, the ones that I do use when mixing these Bond drinks are sweetened with sugar. I’ve been using a small bottling works located in my area called Squamscot Beverages. Their motto is even – “Experience the Past… One Sip at a Time”!

The Gin

I’ve recently discovered Diplôme Dry Gin Original 1945 Recipe which seems a natural fit for this drink.

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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.

black-velvet

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.)

How To Order A Martini Like Ian Fleming

We haven’t actually tackled the Vesper Martini just yet, which is James Bond’s own creation as outlined in Casino Royale. As with most things, Ian Fleming shared Bond’s tastes, he too enjoyed martinis as well as the other drinks in the Bond canon.

However on martinis, it appears Fleming preferred a mixture that was a bit simpler than Bond’s exacting formula.

The following passage was in Henry A. Zeiger’s Ian Fleming: The Spy Who Came in with the Gold. – A 1966 biography of Fleming.

He liked American martinis, as did his hero, but admitted they were somewhat hard to find in London. He wrote: “It is extremely difficult to get a good Martini anywhere in England. . . . The way I get one to suit me in any pub is to walk calmly and confidently up to the bar and, speaking very distinctly, ask the man or girl behind it to put plenty of ice in the shaker (they nearly all have a shaker), pour in six gins and one dry vermouth (enunciate ‘dry’ carefully) and shake until I tell them to stop.

“You then point to a suitably large glass and ask them to pour the mixture in. Your behaviour will create a certain amount of astonishment, not unmixed with fear, but you will have achieved a very large and fairly good Martini, and it will cost you about $1.25.”

That’s it. No olives. No lemon peel. No vodka, just gin and vermouth in a 6-1 ratio and shaken. Elsewhere, Fleming states his preference for American vermouth, rather than the continental varieties.

Zeiger doesn’t specifically say where Fleming wrote this, though he makes reference to a Spectator article. This passage also appeared in the collection Talk of the Devil a collection of unpublished Fleming material put out by Queen Anne Press.

Some purists and mixologists disapprove of the shaking of the martini, insisting the gin will be “bruised.” (Note: that’s nonsense. The possible issue is that shaking could “water down” your martini.) Another, more realistic issue is that your martini will be cloudy after shaking, but even that will clear up after a few minutes.

plain-martini

If you’re looking for an easy, simple martini recipe, why not try the Fleming’s original?

 

Old Fashioned

old-fashioned-glass

On the Phantom train with Solitaire in Live and Let Die, they get settled in after boarding.

Bond ordered Old Fashioneds, and stipulated ‘Old Grandad’ Bourbon, chicken sandwiches, and decaffeined ‘Sanka’ coffee so that their sleep would not be spoilt.

In Thunderball, after a long first day (and before a long night) arriving in the Bahamas and searching for clues, James Bond via room service, orders a “double Bourbon Old Fashioned” before collapsing on his bed.

The Old Fashioned is essentially a way to give Bourbon some flavor with bitters (usually Angostura) and some sweetness with sugar and fruit.

old-fashioned

The roots of the cocktail can be traced back to the early days of the 19th century when drinks of spirits, bitters sugar and water become popular. In time, other ingredients were added to the cocktail, but eventually the original came back into popularity as people began requesting the “Old Fashioned” version.

Cresta Blanca Vermouth

After Felix Leiter surprises James Bond in Manhattan in Diamonds Are Forever, they go to lunch. Bond visits the washroom and when he returns, Leiter has already ordered for him.

There was a medium dry Martini with a piece of lemon peel waiting for him. Bond smiled at Leiter’s memory and tasted it. It was excellent, but he didn’t recognize the Vermouth.

“Made with Cresta Blanca,” explained Leiter. “New domestic brand from California. Like it?”

“Best Vermouth I ever tasted.”

Cresta Blanca was one of California’s most historic wineries, having been founded in 1882. In 1889, a white wine from Cresta Blanca won the Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition – the first time a California wine won a competition in France. With the victory, the future of the wine industry in the state looked much stronger.

They also made a Vermouth, which was what Leiter ordered above. The winery was purchased by Schenley Distillers  in 1941, and closed in 1965. The site is now a historical landmark.

cresta-blanca-vermouthcresta-blanca

 

Fine à l’eau

This is the drink that James Bond orders for Rene Mathis when the latter introduces him to Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.

This drink – just cognac (or Brandy) with water – is a simple drink which was once very popular:

The most popular way to drink Cognac used to be the “Fine à l’eau” until World War II. Take a measure of Pierre de Segonzac Prestige, pour in 3 measures of pure water and that’s it : contrary to a popular belief, water gives you the chance to appreciate aromas during the first ten minutes.

You can also use sparkling water as well. A brandy and soda is a fairly frequently ordered drink in the Bond novels.

Later, in From A View To A Kill, Bond is sitting outdoors at a French café pondering his libation options, lamenting that outdoors on pavement is not a place for serious liquor like vodka, whisky or gin. He considers other options, including the fine a l’eau.

A fine a l’eau is fairly serious, but it intoxicates without tasting very good.

Makes you wonder why he ordered the drink for Mathis if this was his opinion of it.

Pink Gin

In The Man With The Golden Gun, when James Bond is introduced to the hoods at the Thunderbird Hotel, drinks are being served.

The red-coated barman asked him what he would have and he said, ‘Some pink gin. Plenty of bitters. Beefeater’s.’ There was desultory talk about the relative merits of gins. Everyone else seemed to be drinking champagne except Mr Hendriks, who stood away from the group and nursed a Schweppes Bitter Lemon.

Pink Gin is a cocktail – one of the foundational beverages of the British Empire. It is, as Bond notes, gin with bitters. Some put the bitters directly into the gin, others put the bitters into the glass, swirl it around, dump them out and add the gin.

Meant to be served without ice.

PinkGin

 

The Schweppes Bitter Lemon being consumed by Hendriks is a non-alcoholic soft drink. It is a flavored tonic water which has never been hugely popular in the United States, but was and is in Europe.

bitter-lemon

Stinger

The Stinger makes a few appearances in the Fleming novels. This sweet cocktail of crème de menthe mixed with a spirit – usually brandy – is a classic before or after dinner drink.

In Diamonds Are Forever, after dinner at ’21’ James Bond and Tiffany case have drinks and coffee.

Tiffany ordered a Stinger made with white crème de menthe and Bond ordered the same.

Near the end of the book, when the two of them are on the ship headed to England, again they have just finished dinner and are awaiting the rest of the evening.

They got into the lift for the Promenade Deck. “And now what, James?” said Tiffany. “I’d like some more coffee, and a Stinger made with white Crème de Menthe, while we listen to the Auction Pool.

In Thunderball, when Leiter and Bond go to the casino, they head to the tables only after having “coffee and a stinger at the bar”.

stinger

White, or clear crème de menthe is critical to a good stinger. Save the green stuff for Largo’s crème de menthe frappe!

stinger

Crème de Menthe Frappé

In Thunderball, as the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. crew finishes up Phase III and Largo has made his radio call to Blofeld, he “went into the stateroom and carefully made himself a tall glass of his favourite drink – crème de menthe frappé with a maraschino cherry on top. He sipped it delicately to the end and ate the cherry.”

A Crème de Menthe Frappé is simply shaved ice with Green Crème de Menthe poured over the top.

creme-de-menthe-frappe

Bullshot

In the short story The Hildebrand Rarity, Milton Krest consumes three double bullshots “vodka in iced consomme” before lunch, and then beer with the meal.

Bullshots were a drink that became fairly popular in the 1950’s. Sometimes served hot, the drink was usually made from beef broth, and along with the vodka, some people put hot sauce into it as well.