MANY CINEMATIC masterpieces are revered for their meticulously planned details: from the innocuously placed origami unicorns in Blade Runner to Da-song’s “self-portrait” in Parasite. The classics are able to convey meaning in every detail; nothing is there without a reason. One such small feature that contributes to fleshing out a believable character is their choice of drink.
James Bond: “shaken, not stirred” martini
Released in 1962, Dr. No marked the start of 007’s worldwide fame and popularity. It was also the first, but certainly not the last time Bond ordered a “shaken, not stirred” martini. Today, the catchphrase and drink are inseparable from the Bond persona—class and sophistication. In the 2006 film Casino Royale, Bond purposely orders a very complicated vodka martini during a high-stake poker game. The seemingly high-end nature of Bond’s order prompts others at the table to ask for the same, a clear power play by Bond establishing his control over the situation. However, after losing the game, Bond orders a vodka martini and snaps at the bartender by asking, “Do I look like I give a damn [whether the drink is stirred or shaken]?” This reinforces the idea that Bond’s preference for “shaken, not stirred” martinis stems in part from his need to maintain a carefully crafted image of himself.
Bond’s preference for shaken martinis has drawn attention because martinis are usually stirred in order to prevent the gin from bruising, which would result in a bitter taste. Stirring also has the advantage of preventing the ice from melting too quickly and diluting the alcohol. One possible explanation for Bond’s unconventional taste is that he is diluting his drink on purpose in order to con his enemies into a false sense of security by faking intoxication.
Bond’s own martini variant, dubbed the “Vesper” martini—three measures of Gordon’s, one vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet garnished with a large thin lemon peel—reveals that Bond also has a romantic, softer side beneath his poised and suave composure. The Vesper martini was named after Bond’s lover, Vesper Lynd, “because once you have tasted it, you won’t drink anything else.” The variations in an ostensibly simple vodka martini lend shades of meaning to our understanding of Bond as a character.
Hannibal Lecter: a nice Chianti accompanied with “[human] liver”
Dr. Hannibal Lecter is one of the most fascinating and intriguing fictional villains of all time. This human-flesh eating psychiatrist was most notably featured in the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs, in which he assists FBI trainee Clarice Starlingin tracking down a serial killer. In their first encounter, Clarice challenges Dr. Lecter by calling him a coward. “A census taker once tried to test me,” whispers the doctor, his eyes and voice devoid of any emotions, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” He ends his sentence with a faint smile and a hiss. This chilling delivery, which had audiences on the edge of their seats, won Sir Anthony Hopkins an Oscar despite only having 16 minutes of screen time.
What really makes Hannibal Lecter frightening is that, at first glance, he does not come across as a sociopath capable of creating gourmet dinners out of human flesh. His comment on eating a human liver with fava beans and a Chianti is reflective of these “best” qualities: sophistication, wit, and apathy. Chianti wines are produced in the Tuscany region of Italy and pairs especially well with meat as it balances out the greasy aftertaste due to their high acidity. In the original novel, instead of the Chianti, Lecter says that he drank Amarone which is vastly pricier than Chianti. Clearly, this line was intended to emphasize Lecter’s wealth and expensive taste through his choice of wine. Furthermore, Lecter was most likely aiming for a grotesque “doctor joke,” showing off his wit. Meat, beans, and alcohol can all be fatal if consumed by patients on Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), which are a type of strong anti-depressant*. His taunting of Clarice subtly implies that Hannibal has not been taking his prescriptions and therefore is a threat; something that is confirmed by his escape from prison later into the film.
Carrie: a gal’s best friend is a tall glass of Cosmopolitan
The HBO show and subsequent movie sequel Sex and the City portrays the ultimate fantasy of many females: a successful single woman living in New York City, hanging out with her “besties” while shopping for designer shoes. The protagonist Carrie writes a weekly column called “Sex and the City” for the fictional magazine The New York Star. She is a sweet, fun loving single “gal” who enjoys attending parties with her three best friends Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. The series’ positive portrayal of a new type of “alpha woman” contributes much to its popularity, even after two decades.
The Cosmopolitan has always been a party-staple. However, it’s reputation as the ultimate girls-night-out drink was truly cemented after it was established as Carrie’s favorite cocktail.Indeed, the Cosmopolitan is the perfect embodiment of Carrie’s personality of being sweet, playful, glamorous, and a frequent guest at parties. First created by a New York bartender Tony Cecchini in the 1980s, the drink is a combination of vodka, cranberry juice, and lime juice strained onto a martini glass. In an interview with Refinery 29, Cecchini explains that he had heard of pretty pink, yet unappetizing cocktails being made in San Francisco and decided to create his own improved version. It quickly became the “it-drink” of the 1980s with celebrities like Madonna, Jean-Michael Basquiat, and Andy Warhol being seen with a glass of Cosmopolitan. Cecchini recalls that, just as the drink’s popularity was waning, Sex and the City featured the drink which revived its popularity back in the 1990s. While the drink had its fair share of negative connotations attached to it with some mocking it as the ultimate “yuppie” drink or a “girly-girl” drink, today it has overcome most of these stereotypes and remains a sweet and tangy classic that everyone can enjoy.
The Dude: a glass of White Russian
The Big Lebowski is one of the most bizarre films to have ever graced the silver screen, but it is nevertheless hailed as a must-see cult classic. Jeffrey Lebowski, who prefers to be called “The Dude,” is entangled in a series of misadventures stemming from having the same name as a local millionaire. Central to the movie’s charm is The Dude’s laid-back personality and comically haggard appearance: his hair and beard are matted and unkempt, his clothes are weathered, touched off by a pair of thick black sunglasses. To complete his signature look, The Dude usually has a glass of White Russian. Even as The Dude is being manhandled into a car to be interrogated, he holds onto his glass of White Russian and grimaces, “Careful man, there’s a beverage here!” The drink, often likened to an alcoholic milkshake, is a perfect match for The Dude’s overgrown childlike personality whose only concern in life is winning the bowling championship and finding his stolen rug that “really tied the room together.”
The White Russian is a fairly simple cocktail with three ingredients: vodka, Kahlua, and cream. The Dude’s love for this drink is most likely taken from the real-life model for his character, Jeff Dowd, an acquaintance of the directors. In fact, the epithet “The Dude” is said to have been taken directly from Dowd’s own nickname**. Another peculiarity about The Big Lebowski is that it has created a full-fledged religion called “Dudeism.” Followers of Dudeism emulate The Dude’s attitude in life: going with the flow, enjoying the present, and having a minimalist lifestyle***. Believers are fully committed to The Dude’s doctrine. On March 6th, “the day of The Dude”—the day The Big Lebowski was released in theaters—followers don on their most Dude-like attire and participate in a bowling tournament. White Russians are the sacred wine of Dudeists and “the day of The Dude” cannot be complete without the signature liquor.