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James Bond\'s Vodka Martini

8th November 2006

MI6 looks back at the literary roots of James Bond's world famous drink 'The Vesper', better known as the vodka martini

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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If being the central character to the world's most famous and most successful film franchise is not enough, Ian Fleming's creation can lay claim to one other pop culture icon - the vodka martini. Now popular in bars throughout the Western world, and more so following the 2006 big screen adaptation of "Casino Royale" when 007 invents the drink, the vodka martini is as synonymous with 007 as the Walther PPK, the Aston Martin DB5 or the sight of a beautiful girl hanging off his gun arm.

James Bond first ordered his trademark drink when he met CIA agent Felix Leiter in an early chapter in Ian Fleming's debut novel "Casino Royale", first published in 1953:

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Oui, monsieur.'
'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?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.
Bond laughed. 'When I'm . . . er . . . concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'
Above: "Casino Royale" author Ian Fleming was as notorious for his strong tastes as his creation James Bond.

Above: The comic strip adaptation of the scene stayed true to Fleming's recipe.

Having invented his own signature drink for Bond, Fleming leaves the reader hanging for a name of this potent concoction. Enter femme-fatale Vesper Lynd to the story, whom Bond feels is ideal to name his preferred drink after:

  'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd.'... She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it.'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?'
He explained about the special martini he had invented and his search for a name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said.
'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'

Shaken Or Stirred?
The concept of "bruising the gin" as a result of shaking a martini is an oft-debated topic. The term comes from an older argument over whether or not to bruise the mint in preparing a Mint Julep. A shaken martini is different from stirred for a few reasons. The shaking action breaks up the ice and adds more water, slightly weakening the drink but also altering the taste.

Some would say the shaken martini has a "more rounded" taste. Others, usually citing hard-to-track-down scientific studies, say that shaking causes more of a certain class of molecules (aldehydes) to bond with oxygen, resulting in a "sharper" taste. Shaking also adds tiny air bubbles, which can lead to a cloudy drink instead of clear.

In addition the drink is a perfect aperitif - it cleanses the mouth before eating - and the tiny air bubbles restrict the gin (or vodka) from reaching all tastebuds. This is why purists would claim that a martini should always be stirred. Some martini devotees believe the vermouth is more evenly distributed by shaking, which can alter the flavour and texture of the beverage as well. In some places, a shaken martini is referred to as a "Martini James Bond".


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