By John Mariani
This month the 25th James Bond movie, No Time to Die, will debut (after a delay of a year because of Covid), with Daniel Craig back in the Aston-Martin for what he says will be his last outing. So it seems both timely and a good deal of fun to look back over seven decades to see just how much of a connoisseur, gourmet or gourmand 007 really was, or if he was just finicky or—crikey!—bought off by the wine and spirits industry.
Over the ensuing months I’ll run through the books and films to detail when and why Bond eats and drinks what he does, in at least one occasion exposing the ignorance of enemies who order the wrong wine.
“I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat,” says James Bond in the 1953 Ian Fleming book Casino Royale. “It comes partly from being a bachelor but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details.” 007’s tastes were very specific when it came to his favorite drinks.
His knowledge of wine vintages, the best bourbon and the correct temperature at which to drink sake were all important details. Indeed, Bond’s savoir faire and discriminating palate were crucial to his allure as a worldly but never effete masculine figure who says the perfect woman for him would be “someone who can make sauce béarnaise as well as love,” in Diamonds Are Forever (1956).
His favorite champagne was Taittinger Blanc de Blancs 1945, which he called a “fad of mine” in Casino Royale, although he’s not against a little Dom Pérignon, Veuve-Cliquot or Bollinger.
In the movies, Bond’s champagne houses are constantly changing: in from Russia with Love (1963) it’s Taittinger; in Live and Let Die (1973) he orders Bollinger; and in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) it’s Moët-Chandon; in Moonraker (1979) it’s Bollinger again.
Lest one think Bond is fickle about his Champagnes in the movies, it should be noted that several of the Champagne houses either paid a promotional fee or provided bubbly refreshment for the film crew in order to get 007 to order the label.
Bond had an enormous effect on the sale of vodka worldwide, by virtue of his Martinis, famously “shaken not stirred.” In the Casino Royale novel, he stipulates “three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet.
Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large slice of lemon peel, got it?” He later named this odd combination after the character Vesper. In later books he drops the gin, preferring a mix of six parts vodka to one of vermouth. His preferred vodka is one made from grain rather than potatoes. He favors Wolfschmidt.
Bond’s taste is not limited to champagne and vodka martinis. When in Europe he may order an Americano; in Rome he does as the Romans do, ordering a Negroni. On assignment in Tokyo in You Only Live Twice (1967), he lets his colleague Tiger Tanaka lead him through the mysteries of sake.
And in Greece 007 drinks ouzo as they do with an ice water chaser, while in Turkey he has his first experience with anise flavored raki.
And in American waters, with his CIA pal Felix Leiter, more often than not Bond drinks bourbon, specifying Old Granddad, especially when he wants an Old Fashioned.
Bond is not much on Cognac, though he may order one in a café in Paris, and never drinks port or Sherry. In one instance, it seems uncharacteristic for Bond to finish off a meal of caviar and Champagne with a sweet vodka stinger, as he does with Tiffany Case in Diamonds, a mixture of that might well faze the mind of a lesser man.
Oddly enough, while Fleming larded his thrillers with gourmet meals—though always simple, not extravagant—Noël Coward said that he dreaded being invited to Fleming’s house Goldeneye in Jamaica because, Coward said, he was a filthy cook.
In the movies, the writers made food and drink leitmotifs that fans came to expect, especially when Bond shows condescension to his enemies’ choice of a wine, as he does with Dr. No, who plans to torture Bond after dinner.
In Bond films, there always had to be a mention of the famous Martini “shaken not stirred,” so it was something of a shock to audiences when Daniel Craig, in his first outing in Casino Royale (2006), replies to a waiter who asks him if he wants his Martini shaken not stirred, Bond replies—wholly out of character —“Do I look like I give a damn?”
It has always seemed to me that Bond, more than any other fictional character, including a long list of gourmands that range from Nero Wolfe to the Saint, played an enormous part in causing men and women after 1960 to appreciate, learn about and enjoy fine food and wine—which was not lost on companies that got the various Bond actors to hawk their products in paid ads.
Women found it alluring that Bond was not a traditional hero who just knocked back whiskey like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe at every opportunity. Bond was handsome, impeccably dressed, brave, witty and highly sophisticated, and the female characters plied 007 with his favorite foods and drinks.
The repartee, the cars, the guns and the exotic locales have always been essential to the appeal of a hero like no other, who, in addition to his savoir faire, never gets drunk and never flags in bed. That, and the fact that in real years, Bond would now be close to a hundred years old, doing so with a tin of caviar and a bottle of Taittinger Champagne.