The virtual explosion of surprise over James Bond drinking a beer in Skyfall was a bit absurd, and played almost like some practical joke from one of the spy’s arch enemies seeking to display just how gullible the media can be. (“Is that a SPECTRE I see over your shoulder?”) Call it a vast victory for product placement: The kind that not only gets the brand a major slot in a movie, but gets folks–including “The NBC Nightly News”–buzzing to the tune of MILLIONS OF DOLLARS of free publicity, for both the film, and the endorsement. But Ian Fleming’s secret agent 007 has been having the occasional brew almost since his very beginnings in the author’s bestselling series of espionage novels, which commenced in the early 1950s!
Sponsorships and other marketing arrangements have had a long history with the James Bond film series, and have helped pay the freight, in fact, for the super-scaled extravaganzas that so many of us enjoy. The spy only switched from his famous Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch, for example, when other companies offered to front the fee for all the free publicity that attended gracing 007’s wrist.
The most blatant advertisements may have come in Moonraker, which seemed to feature a bevy of well-placed brand names, reaching a nadir with a closeup, in a drawer, of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Behind the scenes, many countries have also lobbied for Bond’s filmmakers to lens an adventure on their shores. The most amusing response to the Bond brou-ha-ha may have been in The New York Post, when a bartender said that 007 drinking a beer would be like the spy giving up his Aston Martin automobile. Bond drove a Lotus Esprit in two of Roger Moore’s Bond movies, and a BMW in some of Pierce Brosnan’s adventures as the secret agent!
In Ian Fleming’s original stories, Bond’s drink of choice was indeed a vodka martini–“preferably with 4 parts Vodka to one of dry Vermouth, with a twist of lemon peel” (shaken, not stirred, of course)–but he also imbibed bourbon, whiskey and, every once in a while, even a Calvados. In the films, Bond sipped a Mint Julep with Goldfinger, a Rum Collins in Thunderball, saki with Tiger Tanaka, ouzo in For Your Eyes Only, and a Mojito in Havana! And as for wine, 007 has enjoyed Mouton Rothschild (various vintages) in both the books and movies: Chianti, White Bordeaux, Moselle, and Pouilly Fuisse in the novels, and sherry (among others) on celluloid.
Across all the series, of course, Bond has favored champagne, ranging from Dom Perignon, to Taittinger, and Bollinger’s. Perhaps the oddest aspect to this manufactured imbroglio is that 007 ordered a beer in The Living Daylights, almost24 years ago ago (” A Bud, with lime.”) And in the predecessor to Skyfall, Quantum of Solace, he also had a bottled beer (at a bar in Bolivia)! But, alas, no one paid for a label to be widely displayed..
As for Ian Fleming’s 007, James Bond didn’t like British ales. But he was known to occasionally drink Lowenbrau in Switzerland, Red Stripe in Jamaica, and Miller’s High Life in America!
A writer/actor living in Long Island, James was one of the first writers for Starlog (and several other late 1970s publications), and a contributing editor to Fantastic Films and Prevue. He also “crossed over” to such mainstream fare as Gentleman’s Quarterly, Esquire, and American Film, while still contributing to such genre stalwarts as Cinefantastique, Starburst, Heavy Metal and Twilight Zone magazines. You can contact Jim at email@example.com.