Review: Shaken: Drinking With James Bond & Ian Fleming

“It’s just that I’d rather die of drink than of thirst,” wrote James Bond author Ian Fleming in 1961’s Thunderball. Of course, neither fate has ever been a concern for 007, an incorrigible superspy who throws double bourbons down his throat with the same aplomb that he has when throwing himself into harm’s way or into an implausibly-named woman’s bed. Despite all his best efforts, Bond remains immortal; more indelible than timeless, but nonetheless a character that will live on forever.

Ian Fleming, however, died at the age of 56 from heart disease most likely brought about from his heavy drinking and smoking, but there’s probably not any real lesson to be learned there.

Perhaps the key to Bond’s immortality as a literary creation is all the rich facets associated with him. You could fill entire libraries with all the books that have been already published about Bond girls, Bond cars and Bond style. Thousands of dewey-decimalled shelves would creak under the weight of Fleming’s original novels sat alongside hundreds of books with possible titles like The Ultimate Bond Quote Collection, How To Drive Like Bond, The Martini Glass Ceiling: Gender Roles And Representation In The 007 Universe, How To Fuck Like Bond: Sex Tips For Men, and The Making Of Die Another Day.

And then there would be an entire floor dedicated to all the Bond cocktail books, each of which would start with a four-page foreword arguing for or against shaking over stirring. The first drink detailed in every volume would be the Vesper Martini, and then there would follow increasingly tenuous recipes for other vaguely themed libations, most of which, if ever presented to the secret agent himself, would probably prompt him to choose ‘thirst’.

Or worse, 'lager'.


But now, just as The Making Of Die Another Day is often regarded as the definitive tome on the making of Die Another Day, we have an ultimate Bond cocktail book. With recipes compiled by Edmund Weil of Bar Swift (award-winning London bar and personal favourite go-to), as well as legendary mixologists Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson, Shaken: Drinking With James Bond & Ian Fleming does the two things that any Bond cocktail book really needs to do and yet so often doesn’t: offer really good, unique and original drink recipes, and relate them all back to Ian Fleming’s work in a legitimate way.

Fascinating drinks with obvious names like SPECTRE, Moneypenny and Blofeld sit alongside more obscure titles like SMERSH, Kissy Suzuki and Tiger Tanaka, and then there are more literal references like Trigger Finger, The Tricky Gadget and the don’t-think-about-it-too-much Old Man’s Thing. For every drink, there’s an explanation that offers real insight into Fleming’s world - be it his personal one or his created one - as well as an explanation of the rationale behind the flavours. Plus there's related trivia on each drink that can range from character inspiration to Noel Coward’s reaction to Ursula Andress’ bum to the fact that “Gin is mentioned 33 times in the Bond novels”. And then there are direct quotes relevant to each recipe such as this:

Bond had forgotten his drink. He picked it up and, tilting his head back, swallowed the bourbon to the last drop. The ice tinkled cheerfully against his teeth. That was it. That was an idea. He would spend the night in Miami and get drunk, stinking drunk so that he would have to be carried to bed by whatever tart he had picked up. He hadn’t been drunk for years. It was high time.

GOLDFINGER
CHAPTER 1. REFLECTIONS ON A DOUBLE BOURBON
That’s the film adaptation I want to see.

If you’re like me, then any cocktail book is really only worth anything if the recipes consist of accessible and readily available ingredients, but this is, of course, all relative. This book is, perhaps rightfully, tailored for the more discerning drinker with a well-stocked home bar, who’ll have no trouble making several of the cocktails listed here straight away. Less equipped mixologists, however, will struggle to make more than a handful of drinks, and it doesn’t help that, at first glance, some of the recipes appear to be near incomprehensible.

Take the Kissy Suzuki, for example, which consists of “Unkai Nayuta No Toki buckwheat shochu”, “Akashi-Tai Shiraume Ginjo Umeshu”, jasmine flower syrup and pandan water. Upon closer inspection, it seems that any “buckwheat shochu” will do (so... great?), the Akashi-stuff is just plum liqueur and actually there are instructions on how to make both the other ingredients. If you can be bothered to do that. And I often can't, no matter how simple the recipes for delicious-sounding infusions like peanut butter rum and pepper-infused tequila are here.

But then I made a few of these drinks and they are nothing short of incredible. If the following cocktails are anything to go by, then all of the effort that would go into making/buying/infusing ingredients listed in these pages would be totally worth it. Take a look:

Scaramanga



60ml Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
25ml Martini Bianco
2 tsp Melon Liqueur
1 tsp Fernet Branca

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Express lemon peel and discard.
Named after Francisco "Pistols" Scaramanga, the villain in The Man With A Golden Gun, this drink is an instant repertoire favourite, and not just because of the glorious hue paying homage to Mr Pistols' firearm. The Fernet Branca gives a bitter edge to this honeyed drink, but the melon liqueur is what really comes through, giving the whole drink a pleasurable sweetness.

Trueblood



40ml Nikka Whisky From The Barrel
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino
2 tsp Campari
2 tsp Creme de Cassis
1 pinch of Salt

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with maraschino cherries.
The page next to this brilliantly bold recipe of bitter, herbs and fruit informs me that Una Trueblood was Ian Fleming's secretary at The Sunday Times and Fleming used her surname for one of his characters in Dr No. So hopefully there were also people in Fleming's life called Miss Moneypenny, Mr Goldfinger and Mr Jaws.

Ouroboros



45ml Ocho Blanco Tequila
15ml Montelobos Mezcal
2 tsp Cointreau
2 tsp Cucumber Syrup
3 dashes of Orange Bitters

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with cucumber peel.
The namesake symbol of a serpent eating its own tail to represent the infinite cycle of life, the Ouroboros was also "the name of the worm and bait factory where Felix Leiter is mauled by a shark in Live And Let Die". The smoky mezcal alongside the strength of the tequila is balanced out beautifully by the sweetness of the syrup and the cointreau, all of which makes for a really tenuous link to a shark attack, but the result was so damn good it's impossible to complain.
Overall, the recipes range from interesting to fantastic, making this a great resource for mixology enthusiasts. But, really, it’s the comprehensive supporting texts and facts about both Fleming’s and Bond’s relationship with alcohol that makes this a must-have for anyone interested in the most important, world famous cocktail advocate in the history of bruising gin.

Shaken: Drinking With James Bond & Ian Fleming is available to buy now and is well worth trading in all of your most expensive cars and gadgets. Although it’s cheaper if you click on this link instead.

Tags: Shaken, James Bond, Films, Recipes, Cocktail Books

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