James Bond creator Ian Fleming died today back in 1964. The novelist presented us with the penultimate spy. Even after multiple books and movies, we can’t get enough of 007. The man is both deadly and debonair, the spy’s spy, the darling of British Intelligence. He always gets the girl. He always defeats the villain. He drives an Aston Martin, the dream car I could never afford. And thanks to James Bond, I was suckered into trying my first vodka martini.
The year was 2006. Daniel Craig had just broken the Bond mold with Casino Royale. It was a refreshing restart of the franchise in the style of Batman Begins. I had soaked up every minute of the film like a kid on a sugar rush, and I spent the following days after Casino Royale thinking like a Hollywood spy. What do I do if I’m followed? Could I beat up two assassins at once? What happens if my cover is blown? Could I seduce a woman to discover her KGB contacts? Ultimately, none of those questions were ever answered in the field. But there was one problem that Bond and I had in common: we weren’t afraid to order stupidly expensive drinks from the bar.
One night, after enjoying drinks with friends, I found a bartender and asked the wrong question: “I’ve always wanted to order a vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred. Can you make one for me?”
The bartender was undoubtedly annoyed. Why couldn’t I order a cosmopolitan like everyone else? He went over to his computer and called up the recipe. (Welcome to the future, Buck Rogers.) What he delivered was a huge martini glass filled with a clear, mysterious liquid and an olive the size of a golf ball. James Bond and I were about to be chums.
First thing’s first: like the spy, the vodka martini is deceptive. The olive is a funny joke or an attractive woman or a flash of color to distract you. After the taste slips by your tongue, the weight of all that alcohol bears down on you like a ton of bricks. That’s when the giant metal door comes crashing down, henchmen appear with submachine guns, and an evil voice calls out, “Goodbye, Mr. Bond.”
You can understand why my second vodka martini was my last. Ian Fleming would have found it amusing, not to mention his liverproof hero. Bond’s take on big drinks in the 1953 novel Casino Royale is obvious for such a big personality: “I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad.”