Editors asleep, the New York Times misquotes Ian Fleming

The vodka martini is justly celebrated, but not because James Bond preferred it. Gin is the predominant spirit in his famous “shaken-not-stirred” recipe. Shouldn’t the Paper of Record know these things?

Weighing in on the use of fruit and other substitutes in the manufacture of vodka, NY TIMES correspondent Dan Bilefsky invokes no less an authority than fiction’s James Bond in Vodka World Shaken, and Stirred, by Fruit Spirits (NYT Nov. 26), but he needs to brush up on his 007 canon.

Bond most certainly did favor the cleaner distillation of grains in his vodka and purported to taste the difference. The famous martini and the spy who loved it first appeared in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale in 1953 and was introduced thusly:

“A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”

“Oui, monsieur.”

“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”

“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.

Bond laughed. “When I’m ... er ... concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker. He reached for it and took a long sip. “Excellent,” he said to the barman, “but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.”

Movie audiences who, for a generation, remember only that the drink was “shaken, not stirred” learn from Bond’s latest screen opus that the drink is eventually given a name: The Vesper—after his love interest in the book and film. What’s wasted in the film treatment is Fleming’s classic joke: both the girl and the drink are named for vespers, traditional evening prayers said “...in the violet hour when my cocktail will be drunk all over the world.”

Just thought you oughta know.