James Bond is wrong: a Martini Consists of Gin (not Vodka) and Vermouth

The Martini Manifesto: Part One.

Richard Thompson Ford

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Photo by Peter Ruck/BIPs/Getty Images

Here is my proposal for the closing sequence of the last ever 007 film.

James Bond sidles up to the bar and next to the beautiful mistress of the murderous leader of an international criminal syndicate. He murmurs nonchalantly, Vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. The bartender turns around and replies,Wrong on all counts! A martini is made with gin and it should be stirred, never shaken. If you want a cold shot of vodka, just say so. Humiliated, his cover blown, Bond realizes it’s time to hang up the Walther PPK and retire. Back at MI-6, Moneypenny gently but firmly talks Bond into trying a proper martini. He becomes a convert to the elixir of gin and vermouth and drives off with Moneypenny and a case of London Dry in the boot of the Aston DB5.

The Bond movies, for all their virtues, have done a grave disserve to the cause of civilized tippling. Justly world renowned, the martini cocktail is, along with jazz and blue jeans one of America’s great contributions to world culture. It is sublime in its simplicity, refinement and elegant balance of flavors and sensations. Indeed, it is deceptively simple, consisting only of three ingredients: London Dry gin, dry vermouth and the trace amount of water that is introduced when these two are stirred over ice to an austere chill.

As Cole Porter advised, “the fountain of youth; is a mixture of gin and vermouth.” It’s a minimal, spare concoction that leaves little margin for error: everything is down to the selection of those ingredients and the skill of the bartender (“mixologists” do not, as a rule, make martinis — or least not good ones — more on that later.) Sadly, most martinis are carelessly made and unworthy of their great pedigree and this — along with the pernicious influence of Bond — explains the otherwise baffling popularity of the vodka “martini.”

Many subtleties can escape the thoughtless and the untutored. The vermouth is often spoiled, having been left out, opened, at room temperature for months or even years on end. The gin is indifferently selected, a greater hazard today than ever before with a dizzying number of “modern” gins on the market, many of which are not very good and some of which…

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Richard Thompson Ford

Professor. Lawyer. Dilettante mixologist. Amateur sartorialist. Watch geek. Author of Dress Codes: how the laws of fashion made history. www.dresscodes.org