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.
We’re introduced to this car in Casino Royale. He also drives this car in Live and Let Die and Moonraker.
Bond’s car was his only personal hobby. One of the last of the 4½-litre Bentleys with the supercharger by Amherst Villiers, he had bought it almost new in 1933 and had kept it in careful storage through the war. It was still serviced every year and, in London, a former Bentley mechanic, who worked in a garage near Bond’s Chelsea flat, tended it with jealous care. Bond drove it hard and well and with an almost sensual pleasure. It was a battleship-grey convertible coupé, and it was capable of touring at ninety with thirty miles an hour in reserve.
As mentioned in Live and Let Die:
The Grey Bentley convertible, the 1933 4 ½-litre with the Amherst-Villiers supercharger, had been brought round a few minutes earlier from the garage where he kept it and the engine had kicked directly he pressed the self-starter.
And in Moonraker:
He had a small but comfortable flat off the King’s Road, an elderly Scottish housekeeper – a treasure called May – and a 1930 4½-litre Bentley coupé, supercharged, which he kept expertly tuned so that he could do a hundred when he wanted to.
We’ll use the year on the last entry, as by 1933, the 4½-litre was no longer being made. In Casino Royale, it is merely stated that Bond bought the car in 1933, not that it was a 1933 model.
Only about 720 4½-litre Bentleys were produced, and only around 50 of those had the supercharger or “blower.”
This appears to be the 1930 coupe. I don’t think James Bond had the Union Jack on his car though. The grey device directly above the number plate is the Amherst-Villiers supercharger.
Here is a look inside at the dash:
Here’s another interesting look inside the cab.
There is a website – Vintage Bentleys – which is dedicated to finding and tracking all of remaining cars of this type in the world. They’ve done a stunning job at cataloging the cars.
In Casino Royale, James Bond and Vesper are having champagne, and Bond originally requests a Taittinger ’45. The wine waiter replies:
‘A fine wine, monsieur,’ said the sommelier. ‘But if the monsieur will permit,’ he pointed with his pencil, ‘the Blanc de Blanc Brut 1943 of the same marque is without equal.’
Bond accepts the suggestion, noting to Vesper that while this is not a well-known brand, “it is probably the finest champagne in the world.”
In seems that Bond has spent time extolling the virtues of Taittinger to others, including his boss, M. From Moonraker:
We’ve got some good champagnes, haven’t we, Grimley? None of that stuff you’re always telling me about, I’m afraid, James. Don’t often see it in England. Taittinger, wasn’t it?”
Bond tries to play it down, saying it was only a “fad” of his, but we know better. Following Grimley’s suggestion however, Bond ends up with a Dom Perignon ‘46.
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond has checked into the Hotel Splendide, he “ordered from Room Service a bottle of the Taittinger Blanc de Blanc that he had made his traditional drink at Royale.”
So, that tradition appears to have begun in Casino Royale.
This ad is from just a couple of years after OHMSS was written:
The Americano holds the distinction of being the very first drink James Bond orders in the Ian Fleming series. In Casino Royale, while waiting for Mathis and Vesper, Bond enters the Hermitage bar, takes a seat by the windows, and orders an Americano.
The drink figures twice in the plot of From Russia With Love, both times while Bond is traveling.
Half an hour among the jabbering loudspeakers of Ciampino Airport, time to drink two excellent Americanos, and they were on their way again…
Then on the Orient Express:
In the restaurant car, Bond ordered Americanos and a bottle of Chianti Broglio. The wonderful European hors d’oeuvres came.
In the short story From a View to a Kill, Bond is again in France, and again orders an Americano. This time we’re given some more of Bond’s thinking on the drink:
“James Bond had his first drink of the evening at Fouquet’s. It was not a solid drink. One cannot drink seriously in French cafés. Out of doors on a pavement in the sun is no place for vodka or whisky or gin. A fine à I’eau is fairly serious, but it intoxicates without tasting very good. A quart de champagne or a champagne à I’orange is all right before luncheon, but in the evening one quart leads to another quart and a bottle of indifferent champagne is a bad foundation for the night. Pernod is possible, but it should be drunk in company, and anyway Bond had never liked the stuff because its liquorice taste reminded him of his childhood. No, in cafes you have to drink the least offensive of the musical comedy drinks that go with them, and Bond always had the same thing – an Americano – Bitter Campari, Cinzano, a large slice of lemon peel and soda. For the soda he always stipulated Perrier, for in his opinion expensive soda water was the cheapest way to improve a poor drink.”
Bond orders the drink, and while he ponders what to do with his evening, it arrives:
The waiter’s tray clattered down on the marble-topped table. With a slick one-handed jerk that Bond had never been able to copy, the waiter’s bottle-opener prised the cap off the Perrier. The man slipped the tab under the ice-bucket, said a mechanical “Voilà, M’sieur” and darted away. Bond put ice into his drink, filled it to the top with soda and took a long pull at it.
The Americano is said to have originated in Milan, and was given its name because of its popularity among Americans who were in Italy during prohibition. Traditionally, a slice of orange, or orange peel goes with the drink, but as we see, Bond prefers lemon. It’s another example of Bond knowing exactly what he wants in a drink.
In Risico, while in Venice to meet Lisl Baum the next day, Bond orders an Americano at Florian’s.