Bond’s Vodka Martini Will Now Come with A Polish Twist
But Agent 007 was essentially a whisky quaffer
IN Dr No, James Bond, who was last seen quaffing Heineken beer in Skyfall, had famously made his vodka preferences clear – Russian or Polish. He has drunk Smirnoff, a ‘Russian’ vodka made in America, and has flirted with Finlandia, but finally, in Spectre, he’ll get to drink a vodka made with Poland’s rye and water.
Sony Pictures has signed a multi-million-dollar deal with Belvedere to make it Bond’s choice for his vodka martini in the 24th 007 film. To celebrate this association, Belvedere has released a limited edition of 100 bottles where the iconic image of Warsaw’s Belvedere Palace, which is now the official residence of the Polish President, has made way for the MI6 headquarters on the banks of River Thames at Vauxhall Cross in London. Just two of these bottles are for India.
Belvedere, as the lovely Claire Smith, its brand ambassador better known as the First Lady of Vodka, explained to me, is the child of one of the 22 POLMOS (acronym for Polski Monopol Spirytusowy, or Polish Spirits Monopoly) distilleries that were up for grabs after Poland freed itself from the clutches of the communists in 1989.
The POLMOS that produces Belvedere is located in Zyrardow, a town 45km west of Warsaw, named after a French inventor who moved to Poland to set up a linen factory. Zyrardow’s linen was once famous all over Poland, but the town has now become synonymous with Belvedere, which continues to be fed by the water of the spring that flows down the old distillery, which started making vodka back in 1910. The Polish connection is reinforced by the label on the cork that certifies that it is a ‘Polska Vodka’ – this label, a mark of national identity, is carried like a badge of honour by all vodka bottles produced in Poland since 2013.
Seeing the 007 bottle, I had to ask Smith about Vesper, the cocktail invented by Bond for a Russian agent in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale in 1953. Has Vesper changed with the times? The original recipe had three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet (a French aperitif spiked with quinine), shaken over ice and served with a thin slice of lemon peel. The new Vesper, I learnt, is a more restrained two parts of Belvedere, one of Tanqueray 10 gin and 10ml of dry vermouth (because Kina Lillet is no longer produced in its original form). I wonder which smoking hot secret agent will Bond serve it to in his next adventure. Well, he would have certainly made one for Smith!
She gave me a heady send-off by mixing a dirty martini and serving it to me at noon. Her recipe: six parts of Belvedere and one of dry vermouth stirred in a shaker with ice. Aeration and temperature are the two factors that make a critical difference to a vodka martini. If you stir it, do it for a minute; if you shake it, five seconds is all that you have. The timing is important because you don’t want the temperature of your vodka martini to drop below minus-5 degrees C. And yes, you may stir, or you may shake, but you must take care never to chip the ice. With those words of wisdom, Smith signed off, leaving me with a very light feeling in my head.
BOND LOVED HIS WHISKY MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE
JAMES BOND’S association with Belvedere has sent 007 researchers digging out numbers that show him being, like a good old Englishman, more in love with whisky than vodka. The number crunchers, according to Vanity Fair magazine, have established that Agent 007 consumes 317 drinks in Fleming’s 14 books and that vodka figures more in his famous quotes than in the drinks he sinks. He has 101 whiskies, including 37 Bourbons on the rocks, compared with 19 vodka martinis. (Of course, he’s also partial to Dom Perignon and sake, and briefly to beer.) It may be because of his unfamiliarity with vodka that he asks for his martini to be shaken, not stirred. Purists prefer stirring, for it chills the vodka molecules without bruising them, or altering their taste profile.
This story had first appeared in my bi-monthly column, Fortune Cookie, in Mail Today on January 29. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers.