From the black dinner jacket worn by Sean Connery in "Dr No," to a crystal-covered dress seen in the forthcoming "Skyfall," the "Designing 007" exhibition unsheathes Bond's style in the half-century since 1962. A walk down a red carpet, through the giant gun barrel featured in the Bond title sequences, opens up a world of gadgets, glamor – and alcohol.
The vodka martini (3 measures of vodka, ½ measure of dry vermouth and, yes, shaken, not stirred) is the drink most closely associated with Bond, but in fact it's the Vesper Martini that is first mentioned – in 1953's "Casino Royale." Named after Bond's double-agent girlfriend Vesper Lynd, it is regarded by martini connoisseurs as the superior drink. Here's Bond at his pedantic best:
"'A dry Martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said [CIA agent Felix] 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.'"
One difficulty with recreating the drink (also featured in "Quantum of Solace") today is that the make-up of Kina Lillet, a fortified wine, was changed by the manufacturers in the 1980s to make it less bitter. Aficionados now add powdered quinine or a couple of drops of Angostura Bitters to achieve the true Bond effect.
The shaking of the vodka martini also presents problems. In his book "The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion," Duane Swierczynski claims that "James Bond was a moron. You should never shake a martini … Doing so will make your drink cloudy." But after extensive research in 2010, New Scientist magazine concluded the spy was on to something – when the Bond books were written, most vodka was made from potatoes (not grain), which could leave an oily taste. Shaking the martini with ice, rather than stirring, reduced that effect.
Of course, martinis are just one of many drinks consumed by our hero. Blogger Edward Biddulph has compiled a database of Bond's drinks both in print and on screen. "There are a total of 48 individual types of alcoholic drink; 39 of them are mentioned in the books, 22 appear in the films," he reports. Martinis (vodka and Vesper) top the list overall, followed by whisky and Bollinger (the most frequently consumed Champagne).
Worryingly, Biddulph concludes that drinks-wise, "the film Bond and book Bond have separated in terms of their drinking identity." Film Bond's reliance on cocktails and Champagne rather than spirits and wine shows that he has "diverged from the habits of literary Bond."
In "The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond," David Leigh adds salt to the wound by observing: "At some point in the film series the character of James Bond started to demonstrate an encyclopedic knowledge of the highlife ... at its worst excesses he became an unbearable know-it-all on just about any topic you could name."
Leigh cites a scene from the novel "Moonraker," when "the wine waiter recommends the 1946 Dom Pérignon '46 to Bond, who has learned from M that Blades [a private club] doesn't stock Taittinger. Not only did Bond accept the waiter's recommendation, he also asked for it – something that would never occur in the film series." As Moneypenny would say, "Poor James." The suave 007 has already endured the humiliation of being played by nine different actors; now he's thought to have a split personality.
Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blanc '43 is the Champagne of choice in "Casino Royale," "On Her Majesty's Service" and "From Russia with Love." But in "Dr No," Dom Pérignon plays a leading role when Bond seizes a bottle to use as a weapon. "That's a Dom Pérignon '55," says Dr No. "It would be a pity to break it." "I prefer the '53 myself," replies Bond.
At the Barbican exhibition the white bikini that catapulted Ursula Andress to fame in "Dr No" is on show, along with the skimpy sky-blue swimming trunks worn by Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale." Visitors can also revel in the sight of a wax model of actor Sean Connery insouciantly leaning on an Aston Martin DB5, driven by Bond in an Alpine car chase in "Goldfinger." The deadly bowler hat used by chief hatchet man Oddjob is on display, while scenes from the film are projected on the walls.
"Goldfinger" features pints of 1950 Pommery Brut Rosé, as well as Dom Pérignon, which prompts a classic Bond line: "There are some things that just aren't done; drinking Dom Pérignon above 38 degrees Fahrenheit is as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs." In "The Spy Who Loved Me," the secret agent goes even further, opining that "any man who drinks Dom Pérignon '52 can't be all bad."
Other featured Dom Pérignon vintages include:
Veuve Clicquot pops up in "Casino Royale," "Diamonds are Forever" and "Thunderball" (where it accompanies $50 worth of Beluga caviar; Bond claims that anything less "would be no more than a spoonful").
Literary James first drinks Bollinger in "Diamonds Are Forever," when Tiffany Case sends a quarter-bottle to his cabin. Film James waits until "Live and Let Die" to order a bottle from room service, but from then on Bollinger is his Champagne of choice:
As for still wines, in "From Russia with Love," Donald "Red" Grant reveals himself as a villain, not a British agent, when he orders a red Chianti to go with his sole on the Orient Express. Jeremy Black, author of "The Politics of James Bond," observes that the incident is "symptomatic of the social policies of the Bond world. Social conformity and positioning are involved in the choice of wine."
Later in the film, Bond says: "Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something." Grant delivers a deadly riposte: "You may know the right wines, but you’re the one on your knees."
A lack of wine savvy also leads to a major plot twist in "Diamonds Are Forever," when two disguised assassins, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd, deliver a meal to Bond's suite.
Bond: "The wine is quite excellent. Although for such a grand meal I would have expected a claret."
Wint: "But of course. Unfortunately, our cellar is poorly stocked with clarets."
Bond: "Mouton Rothschild is a claret. And I've smelled that aftershave before – and both times I've smelled a rat."
When Bond has dinner with arch-baddie Auric Goldfinger, a 1947 Mouton Rothschild is served, along with a 1953 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen (Goldfinger admires its golden hue; James thinks it tastes like ice-cold nectar). Later, he enjoys a Rosé d'Anjou with his ouefs cocotte, sole meunière and Camembert cheese in Orléans, and drinks Mâcon with Tilly Masterton in St Laurent.
In "Casino Royale," Bond and Vesper Lynd, his doomed lover, drink a 1982 Château Angélus on a train to Montenegro. By contrast, M's favorite drink is said to be a rough Algerian red known as "The Infuriator."
As he works to defend his country, Bond knocks back liebfraumilch, glühwein and Turkish Kavaklidere; ouzo, slivovic and sake; Budweiser, Löwenbräu and Heineken; Americanos, Stingers and Negronis. And still the drinks keep coming.
In his book "For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond," Ben Macintyre reports that in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" Bond downs "no fewer than 46 drinks ... According to one Bondologist, these include: unspecified quantities of Pouilly-Fuissé white wine, Taittinger Champagne, Mouton Rothschild '53 claret, calvados, Krug Champagne, three bourbons with water, four vodka and tonics, two double brandy and ginger ales, two whisky and sodas, three double vodka martinis, two double bourbons on the rocks, at least one glass of neat whisky, a flask of Enzian schnapps, Marsala wine, the better part of a bottle of fiery Algerian wine (served by M)," etc., etc.
"At times," concludes Macintyre, Bond "seems less to be luxuriating in alcohol than marinating in it."
At the Barbican exhibition, visitors are able to buy examples of the suave spy's alcohol-related accoutrements, including cocktail shakers and martini glasses; appropriate drinks are also on offer at the Martini Bar. The organizers clearly think that by the time Bond fans reach the end of the display, they will have worked up a thirst.
"You will see dazzling film clips, sequences that illuminate iconic moments in James Bond films from the beginning – 'Dr No' – all the way up to 'Quantum of Solace,'" says curator Bronwyn Cosgrave. "The sets, costumes and gadgets are today considered equally as iconic as the man himself, and that's what we hope to illuminate."
An array of sketches, storyboards and costumes show 50 years of style, but also the enduring themes that have made the films popular worldwide. "I think James Bond films have changed," says curator and Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming. "They have become far more international. They were an English phenomenon that [has] spread all over the world."
Fitting then that after two months in London, "Designing 007" will embark on a three-year global tour, starting in Toronto this October.