The Enduring Legend (And Mockery) Of Bond’s Martini

Three vodka martinis and some nibbles

Let’s start at the beginning, with a simple question to the world’s most famous spy.

Do you fancy a drink, Mr Bond?

Here’s how he notoriously (and rather grumpily) tends to answer that question:

So, not only does he want a cocktail, rather than a beer or a coffee or even a nice glass of wine, he has very specific expectations as to how it should be prepared, and he’s not prepared to specify that it’s a vodka martini in order to be helpful. This is used as a illustration of the brutal and exacting standards of the superspy Bond. He’s not agreeable, an agreeable man with a license to kill would be a downright liability. No, he knows exactly what he wants and he’s not afraid to issue instructions in order to get it.

Trouble is, people in the service industries, people who have to be agreeable for money, tend to get fed up of this sort of autocratic treatment. Or, as Seth MacFarlane has illustrated with his promotional clip for this year’s Oscars, they just giggle:

http://youtu.be/uWFA9PCVqC0

As with all things exacting, it seems the ‘correct’ way to prepare a vodka martini is a matter of taste. Many bartenders do insist on stirring a martini, to avoid the liquids becoming cloudy as air and ice-chips are introduced to the mixture. However, shaking also breaks up any residual oil from the vodka (in the 1950s, the cheaper, potato-based vodkas were particularly oily), and chills the drink faster, so you can get on with the job in hand.

There again, if speed really was of the essence, Bond would simply order a straight whisky and have done with it.

On the stirred, not shaken side of the argument, we present President Bartlet, of The West Wing:

And on Bond’s side, Mythbusters, who investigated the idea that shaking bruises the gin, and ruins the flavor of the drink (among other things):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvPaw9DxtTc

But even in the presence of a definitive answer (or as definitive as answers can get, given it’s a matter of taste), Bond’s rudeness still needs addressing. Here’s the British comedy duo Mitchell & Webb giving Bond’s manners what for:

Is this maybe why his favorite drink is a clear liquid that would betray any, y’know, tampering from fed-up baristas?

Here’s Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon competing to be the best Bond, from ABC’s The Trip:

And finally, there’s a fascinating (if you like grammar) argument on The Chronicle of Higher Education, detailing the difference in expectation between a drink that is “shaken, not stirred” and one that is “shaken, but not stirred.”

A needlessly exacting approach to the situation, maybe, but one at which Bond himself could hardly find fault.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser is a British writer, broadcaster and the the author of the book Stuff Brits Like. He is Anglophenia's resident Brit blogger, having written BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog, the Top of the Pops website, and for NME, the Guardian and elsewhere. Favorite topics include slang, Doctor Who and cramming as much music into Anglophenia as he can manage. He invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic
View all posts by Fraser McAlpine.