Review: Shaken: Drinking With James Bond & Ian Fleming
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:
CHAPTER 1. REFLECTIONS ON A DOUBLE BOURBON
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.