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 This passage also appeared in the collection Talk of the Devil a collection of unpublished Fleming material put out by Queen Anne Press.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?

 

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6 Replies to “How To Order A Martini Like Ian Fleming”

  1. Six measures of gin would surely kill me. My own preference is for two measures of gin. But first, I pour a dash of vermouth into the glass, swirl it around for a few seconds, then pour it down the sink, before adding the gin into the shaker and stirring it for ten or so seconds and then pouring it through the strainer into the glass. Basically, it ends up being two shots of gin, served cold. The vermouth doesn’t stand a chance.
    I’m sometimes amazed that Fleming made it to the age of fifty-six. If not for the stress associated with the legal wranglings over the ‘Thunderball” saga, I get the feeling that he probably would have made it into his late seventies or early eighties.
    People were made of sterner stuff back then.

    1. I’m not so sure Teeritz–the Flemings apparently have weak hearts. Ian’s nephew Nichol died from a heart attack at the same age as him. Peter Fleming also died from a heart attack and outlived Ian by only 8 years, despite consuming less booze, cigarettes, and richly buttered scrambled eggs.

    2. I read your post on the martini, Teeritz, enjoyed it immensely. 6-1 is bit much yeah, probably better to go 3 – 1/2 instead. You share good company on the 6-1 measure,

      In Live and Let Die, Bond gives Solitaire instructions on Martinis, and when she returns with the mixture:

      “I hope I’ve made it right,” she said. “Six to one sounds terribly strong. I’ve never had Vodka Martinis before.”

      1. Thank-you, sir. I’m out of practice. Took me about two hours to finish that drink. I was considerably worse for wear by the time I bit into the olive. Can’t drink in your forties the way did in your twenties, and I found that out the hard way…hic!

  2. I’ve come to forego the vermouth all together. I love the clean, cold taste of the shaken gin. The one thing I’ll never forgive Mr. Fleming for, though, is starting the trend for vodka, to the point that young people today often think that a classic Martini is made with vodka.

  3. 6-1 is strong even for a dry martini (anything above 3-1 is dry, usually dry is at 5-1).
    Shaken is not usually recommended for gin (try both to understand) but sitting properly is harder then shaking and requires bigger ice cubes so if you are in a standard bar, shaken will be easier to manage for the bartender.
    Vermouth must be dry (no Martini Rossi… Go for noilly prat if nothing else is available).
    As for the vodka martini… When Fleming wrote, vodka was usually from potatoes which must be shaken as it is more oily than grain vodka or gin.

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