Felix Leiter and the drink

Picking up the novel in chapter seven, we find Bond preparing for his night of gambling. He almost seems like an athlete going through a pre-game ritual. He gets a massage, and then takes a nap. When he wakes up, he goes through his mental preparation, and then goes to the casino for “warmups”. He plays some roulette, and picks up attention as his technique and mental preparations appear to pay dividends.

As he finishes his run at the table, an American catches his attention with his friendliness and offer of a drink. The man turns out to be Felix Leiter…his first meeting with Bond. It is also at this meeting that Bond orders what becomes the drink forever associated with him, both in the books and in the movies. He asks for “A dry martini”, “in a deep champagne goblet”. He has further instruction.

‘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?’

Hmmm, Gin, rather than Vodka, and no olives. A little more complicated than the “Vodka Martini, Shaken not stirred” made famous by the celluloid version of Bond. The Kina Lillet is also interesting. It’s basically a sweet wine, which I think is used as vermouth might be. This drink is something of a ritual for Bond, as he explains that he never has more than one drink before dinner, but he wants that drink to be large, strong, cold, and well made. Fleming notes that the drink is “aerated by the bruising of the shaker”. Perhaps that’s a clue as to why Bond prefers the shaking, which some feel only waters down the drink? Bond has one further note to the waiter, advising him that grain vodka would be preferable to the potato vodka in the future. Nowadays, you really wouldn’t have to specify. Potato Vodka was more common back then as the grain had be rationed during the war.

Bond and Leiter talk more about the job they are currently on. Bond asks Leiter to look after “Miss Lynd” – assistant there, while he is playing, and also to try to mark the gunmen of Le Chiffre. Leiter agrees and tells him a little of his background. He’s from Texas.

Bond reflected that good Americans were fine people and that most of them seemed to come from Texas.

I don’t know if that is true, but I wonder what made Fleming write that. I’ve read two biographies of him, and I’m trying to wrack my brain to remember if there were Texans involved. Fleming, if you didn’t know, based many of his characters – if only their names – on many of his friends and people he met. Bond and Leiter talk shop for a short while, and then return to the hotel, with the agreement that they will meet at 10:30 or 11:00 that night, when the real action heats up at the casino.