Skyfall Spoiler Alert!
Ah yes, the dreaded feast days. A time of crisp weather, long walks, bountiful meals, unspoken antipathy among family members and – to my delight, martinis and Bond, James Bond that is.
Synonymous with sophistication, allure, and delicious decadence, the martini holds a hallowed place in social history – it is the “King of Cocktails”. Like the stiletto heel, it never goes out of style. Entire bar menus are devoted to its variants and a hip, retro cultural movement has adopted the martini as its cornerstone for stylish fun.The martini remains on the cutting edge of liquid fashion, constantly reinventing itself. There is no other world-traveler like the martini. Never watered down, the martini stands strong and silent in every language with no translation needed.
For the true aficionado, be sure to archive a Bond Lover’s Memorable Martini. You’ll be channeling 007 in no time.
No one in history has done more for the martini and its distinctive reputation than the fictional character who put the man back into manhood, Ian Fleming’s James Bond. If you really want to win friends and influence just about everyone in your very selective and choicest of circles, we’ve compiled some fascinating data about Mr. Bond and his martini habits, settling the record straight once and for all regarding “Shaken not Stirred” and Gin or Vodka. Time you stepped up to be the life of the party!
The shaken Martini is first presented to Bond in the first Bond film Dr. No in 1962, but Bond did not order one himself until Goldfinger (1964). Since then, each Bond has himself ordered the drink, except for two.
Roger Moore’s Bond never! although he did receive one in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me.
Bond first ordered a drink to be shaken in Fleming’s novel Casino Royale (1953) when he requested a drink of his own invention which would later be referred to as a “Vesper“, named after the Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. After just meeting his CIA contact Felix Leiter for the first time, Bond orders the drink from a barman while at the casino.
‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’
‘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 think of a good name.’ — Casino Royale, Chapter 7: Rouge et Noir 
Following the novel’s lead, the Vesper was prominently featured in the 2006 film version of Casino Royale.
A Vesper differs from Bond’s usual cocktail of choice, the martini, in that it uses gin and vodka, Kina Lillet instead of vermouth, and a lemon peel instead of an olive. In the same scene Bond gives more details about the Vesper telling the same barman that vodka made from grain instead of potatoes makes the drink even better. Russian and Polish vodkas were also always preferred by Bond if they were in stock. Although there is a lot of discussion on the Vesper, it is only ordered once throughout Fleming’s novels and by later books Bond is ordering regular vodka martinis, though he also drinks regular gin martinis. In total Bond orders 19 vodka martinis and 16 gin martinis throughout Fleming’s novels and short stories.
Why shaken, not stirred?
Scientists, specifically biochemists, and martini connoisseurs have investigated the difference between a martini shaken and a martini stirred. According to a study at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario in Canada to determine if the preparation of a martini has an influence on their antioxidant capacity, the shaken gin martinis were able to break down hydrogen peroxide and leave only 0.072% of the peroxide behind, versus the stirred gin martini which left behind 0.157% of the peroxide. The study was done at the time because moderate consumption of alcohol appears to reduce the risk of cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, none of which afflict the fictional James Bond.
Andrew Lycett, an Ian Fleming biographer, believed that Fleming liked his martinis shaken, not stirred because Fleming thought that stirring a drink diminished its flavour. Lycett also noted that Fleming preferred gin and vermouth for his martini. It has also been said that Fleming was a fan of martinis shaken by Hans Schröder, a German bartender.
Some connoisseurs believe that shaking gin is a faux pas, supposedly because the shaking “bruises” the gin (a term referring to a slight bitter taste that can allegedly occur when gin or vodka is shaken). Others contend that Bond was only shaking because of the vodka it contained. Prior to the 1960s, vodka was, for the most part, refined from potatoes (usually cheaper brands). This element made the vodka oily. To disperse the oil, Bond ordered his martinis shaken; thus, in the same scene where he orders the martini, he tells the barman about how vodka made from grain rather than potatoes makes his drink even better. This does not explain why Bond in the films still preferred his drink to be shaken rather than stirred, because beginning mostly in the 1960s vodka refined from potatoes was virtually replaced by vodka refined by grains.
Other reasons for shaking tend to include making the drink colder or as Bond called it, ice-cold. Shaking allows the drink to couple with the ice longer thus making it far colder than if it were to be stirred. Shaking is also said to dissolve the vermouth better making it less oily tasting.
While properly called a Bradford, shaken martinis also appear cloudier than when stirred. This is caused by the small fragments of ice present in a shaken martini.
Now aren’t you glad you asked? Good, let’s spare the sky and have a martini.
For Charles, always unshaken!