It has been said that nothing defines the gentleman more than his signature drink. Few drinks exude the elegance and sophistication of the martini. And nothing defines the most elegant and sophisticated fictional spy of all, Bond, James Bond, better than the vodka martini. Shaken not stirred of course.
The martini is a deceptively simple cocktail made made of just two ingredients plus a garnish, although personal preferences make it a bit more complicated. The classic martini is made with gin and vermouth and garnished with olive or lemon twist. Gin and vermouth are available in a variety of distinct styles that provide different flavor profiles.
The vodka martini, also known as a vodkatini or kangaroo cocktail, substitutes vodka for gin. All vodka is not created equal. The literary Bond prefers a Polish grain vodka. Although many traditionalists look down on substituting vodka for gin, James Bond obviously disagrees.
The ratio of gin (or vodka) to vermouth varies. The classic martini is composed of gin and dry vermouth at a 2:1 ratio. A dry martini has very little vermouth and an extra-dry martini usually has no vermouth. An upside-down or reverse martini has more vermouth than gin (or vodka). The International Bartenders Association (IBA) Official Martini is composed of gin and dry vermouth at a 6:1 ratio. What it really comes down to is personal preference.
Sir Winston Churchill when once asked how much vermouth he would like in his martini, was quoted as replying “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.”
A dry martini is made with dry, white vermouth. A perfect martini uses equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth. Variations include the dirty martini (with the addition of olive juice or brine) and the Gibson martini (with an onion garnish). In the film SPECTRE (2015), James Bond during a son to be interrupted peaceful moment whilst on the train with Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), ditched his classic vodka martini for a dirty martini.
History of the Martini & James Bond
The actual origin of the martini is subject to debate. Some believe it gets its name from the brand name of an Italian vermouth, named after the Martini & Rossi Distilleria Nazionale di Spirito di Vino, in Turin. Some suggest it evolved from a cocktail called the Martinez, which is variously attributed to bartender Jerry Thomas at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco in the 1860s or by a bartender by the name of Richelieue who worked at a saloon in Martinez, California. Whatever its actual origins, it has become one of the most widely known cocktails.
The martini became the locally predominant cocktail during Prohibition (1920-1933) in the United States due to the relative ease of illegal gin manufacture. The term bathtub gin first appeared in the United States in the1920s in reference to the poor-quality alcohol that was being made.
With the repeal of Prohibition and subsequent rise of quality gin, the martini became progressively drier. Although the martini lost some popularity in the 1970s and 1980s due to it being seen as old fashioned, it saw a resurgence in the 1990s that continues to this day.
In the second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die (1954), Bond goes through much of the book drinking martinis made from gin in the Jazz clubs of Harlem with his CIA cohort Felix Leiter. It was only at the end of the book, after defeating Mr. Big, that he asks Solitaire to mix him a vodka martini. This is the first time that a vodka martini is mentioned in the books. Bond’s vodka martini recipe consists of six parts vodka to one part vermouth. Bond doesn’t actually ask for it to be shaken, but it is implied.
Shaken or Stirred?
Many martini purists will tell you that martinis should always be stirred and that shaking ruins the drink. Others feel that while gin martinis should be stirred, it is completely acceptable to shake a vodka martini.
Although many blame Ian Fleming and James Bond for the shaken martini, English bartender Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), prescribes shaking for all its martini recipes. Craddock, who was the third head bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London, was one of the most famous bartenders of the 1920s and 1930s and co-founder of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild. An updated version of The Savoy Cocktail Book with a new introduction and recipes from The Savoy is available from Amazon.com.
Contrary to what some have been led to believe, gin cannot be “bruised” by shaking. In theory, shaking can result in a potential dilution by the ice compared to stirring for an equivalent amount of time, but it is very subtle. When you stir a martini you distribute the ice through the drink. It could be argued that since vodka tastes better when it is very cold, and that a shaken martini is subtlety colder martini, a shaken vodka martini is therefore a better vodka martini.
Official Belvedere 007 Martini
In 2017, Belvedere Vodka and EON Productions partnered to introduce the Official Belvedere 007 Martini and bring James Bond’s iconic cocktail to the best cocktail bars around the world. The Official Belvedere 007 Martini has been been described as “elegant, balanced and distinctive.” It is the perfect cocktail for any sophisticated secret agent. Ingredients: 60ml / 2oz Belvedere Vodka. 10ml / 1/3 oz. Dry Vermouth. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with cracked ice. Shake well. Garnish with a lemon twist.
SPECTRE Dirty Martini
To make the SPECTRE dirty martini variation of the Official Belvedere 007 Martini, add 5ml / 1/6 oz Sicilian olive brine and garnish with one or two Sicilian olives instead of lemon peel. The dirty martini gets an extra kick from the olive brine, which adds salt and acidity.
For an outstanding dirty martini, I recommend using Queen Creek Olive Mill Spanish Fly Martini Mix and Queen Creek Pimento Stuffed Olives, which may be ordered online directly from Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, Arizona. Queen Creek Olive Mill Spanish Fly Martini Mix is made from the brine from their famous stuffed olives. It is available in three flavors — Original, Lemon, and Spicy.
Queen Creek Olive Mill is Arizona’s only producer of extra virgin olive oil, all organic and produced using sustainable farming practices. It has been featured on the Food Network, Cooking Channel and Discovery Channel. It was named one of the “10 delicious destinations in the Valley of the Sun” by USA Today. If this sounds like a plug, well it is.
Casino Royale Vesper Martini
No article on the martinis of James Bond would be complete without mention of the Vesper. The Vesper is a fictional drink that made its appearance in Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale (1953) and in the 2006 movie by that name starring Daniel Craig. The Vesper is very heavy on alcohol.
Here’s how to make the Vesper in the words of James Bond himself: “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?” (Casino Royale, Chapter 7).
Kina Lillet (Lillet is pronounced lee-lay) is a French aromatized wine that is no longer produced. It was replaced by Lillet Blanc. Although Lillet Blanc originally contained quinine (as did Kina Lillet) that imparted a hint of bitterness, it was dropped in the 1980s. The Lillet Blanc of today is more like a dry vermouth, but sweeter. To bring back the hint of bitterness of the original Vesper, it has been suggested swapping out the Lillet Blanc for Giulio Cocchi Americano or adding several dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters.
Gordon’s London Dry Gin is sold in several different strengths depending on the market. In the United States, it is bottled at 40% ABV. When Casino Royale was written, the ABV in the United Kingdom was also 40%, but it was reduced to 37.5% in 1992. First produced in 1769, Gordon’s has been the number one selling gin in the United Kingdom since the 19th century.
I have not tried the Vesper, so I cannot comment on how it tastes. But if you are looking for a drink that is truly unique to James Bond, you may want to give the Vesper a try.
With the 25th installment in the James Bond film series, NO TIME TO DIE (2020), slated in theatres, it is the perfect time to drink a toast to the world’s most famous fictional superspy, Bond, James Bond. A martini, of course. Perhaps it will become your signature drink, as well.
Angostura Aromatic Bitters www.angosturabitters.com
Belvedere Vodka www.belvederevodka.com
Gordon’s London Dry Gin www.gordonsgin.com
Guilio Cocchi www.cocchi.it
Martini & Rossi www.martini.com
Queen Creek Olive Mill www.queencreekolivemill.com
The Official Ian Fleming Website www.ianfleming.com
The Official James Bond 007 Website www.007.com
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