Magazine article The Spectator

Great Shakes

Magazine article The Spectator

Great Shakes

Article excerpt

For years, I wondered how James Bond could be bothered with the stuff. After all, there he was, after a long day filled with car chases, trollops and countdowns; surely excitement on that scale would work up a thirst for something little more substantial than a piddling vodka martini, shaken not stirred? Like several pints of Carlsberg, for instance, or even a jumbo balloon of brandy?

But then of course, I had never actually tried a vodka martini before. I expect quite a few people haven't. Just to utter the words to a barman would surely make one feel impossibly self-conscious, no? 'I'll have that thing that James Bond drinks, please.' It'd be a tiny bit gauche. Wouldn't it?

Well, apparently not, according to the staff at the freshly refurbished Connaught Bar in Mayfair. If done right, a martini can be a thing of wonder that combines science and art. A sort of Heston Blumenthal approach, but in a glass.

A little later: how to achieve this perfect Bond martini at home. First: the experts.

In Ian Fleming's first Bond novel Casino Royale, published in 1953, 007 gave the barman a sternly precise list of instructions for what he considered the ne plus ultra of a vodka martini. These were: 'Three measures of Gordon's Gin. One measure of vodka. Half a measure of Kina Lillet. Lemon peel. Shake it very well until ice cold.' At the Connaught Bar, the ceaselessly experimental cocktail creators have their own views on such matters. But a spokesman assures me that a startling number of their smart clientele have no compunctions about asking for Bond's favourite pick-me-up. And boy, in the current absence of the American Bar at the Savoy, this is the place to go for the full martini experience.

The Connaught version is made with Ketel One vodka (or Tanqueray gin); this is followed by Vermouth Dry; there are also bitters. The initial ingredients are shaken not over little ice cubes, but huge chunks of ice. This, I am assured, reduces the dilution of the drink that might otherwise take place.

The whole kit is brought to your table, and served up with the reverence of a Japanese tea ceremony; one is first offered a choice of bitters (ginger, coriander, vanilla, grapefruit, cardamom, licorice or lavender). Having made your selection, a delicate quantity is poured into your glass, by means of lining, followed by the rest of the mixture, and the traditional choice of lemon peel or olive. …

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