The Business of Bond

"I'll take a Heineken I look like I'm joking?"

There has been much to-do in the drinking world about a certain aspect of the upcoming James Bond film, Skyfall.  The problem, it seems, is Bond’s choice of a Heineken beer rather than his traditional “shaken and not stirred” martini, which many consider as both an egregious affront to the character’s legacy as well as an another all too common and unfortunately heavy handed example of product placement.

When the news broke regarding Heineken’s role in the film earlier this month, you would have thought the world was ending. And for some, perhaps it was.  Most of the discussion on the matter was either matter-of-fact or completely overblown.  However, I found one article by Forbes contributor Larry Olmstead that I particularly enjoyed.

Olmstead states his central point early: “Alas, as the film series has moved beyond the actual Ian Fleming novels on which almost all of them were based, it has embraced ever more blatant product placements, and in the process, many authentic Bond touches have been swept under the rug.”

A fair point.  Yet, after summarizing several products Bond has hawked over the years – most notably cars, watches, and vodkas – Olmstead states the matter’s importance: “But switching him to beer is something quite different, a paradigm shift from his love of martinis…Furthermore, if Bond did drink beer, it would almost certainly be something more substantial than the ubiquitous Dutch lager, like an ale, porter or stout, likely of the British variety.”

While he makes several acceptable arguments – even sarcastically proposing the next film “sell off naming rights to his iconic codename – he could ditch the 007 moniker and become simply Agent Emirates” – Olmstead certainly never faults the moviemakers for their decision.  And, as it turns out, neither does Daniel Craig, the actor presently playing the iconic British spy.

In a recent interview, Craig explained the necessary evil of advertising in moviemaking: “We have relationships with a number of companies so that we can make this movie. The simple fact is that, without them, we couldn’t do it. It’s unfortunate but that’s how it is… This movie costs a lot of money to make, it costs as nearly as much again if not more to promote, so we go where we can.  The great thing is that Bond is a drinker, he always has been, it’s part of who he is, rightly or wrongly, you can make your own judgment about it, having a beer is no bad thing, in the movie it just happens to be Heineken.”

I personally don’t have a problem with such advertising as long as it doesn’t blatantly detract from the plot or border on the ridiculous. And when looking back over Bond’s past exploits involving invisible cars, suitcase helicopters, stealth boats, or the innumerable laser watches and weapons, Bond enjoying a cold beer is perfectly acceptable to me.  Especially if it helps encourages production of another Bond film.

Published in: on April 17, 2012 at 11:18 pm  Comments (3)  
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A Drink With… Brian Williams

Grey Goose Martini, up, hold the olives.

Brian Williams is a 21st Century newsman: jetsetter; inquisitor; everyman.  Only a few years ago, we watched his reports from Baghdad or Kabul, before that it was Monrovia, Belgrade, or Beirut – where ever the action was.

These days, however, he’s the big man behind the desk, anchoring not one, but two nightly news shows, always clean shaven, coiffed, and poised.  Gone are the days of live feeds from distant lands.  That’s now left to the junior field reporters looking to cut their teeth.

And so it’s a classic cocktail in a clean, chilled glass.  He’s moved into the big leagues where Koppel, Rather, and Murrow used to rule.  No more dirty glasses and lukewarm beer.  His job is to inform and educate, with an approachability and easy smile that make yuppie co-eds swoon.

That, along with his understated and sly wit.  Because it makes you think: Anyone who hangs with Jon Stewart or cameos on 30 Rock must be fun to drink with.


A Drink With… is a lighter take on tossing one back with a noted individual, be it statesmen, scholar, athlete, or celebrity.  It is a series of fiction and perhaps, humor.

Published in: on November 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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Better Late Than Never

What’s been going on for the last several weeks, you might ask?  Did I abandon The Hip Flask or go on a month-long bender, Leaving Las Vegas style?  Unfortunately not, though I have wished for a more mellow version of the latter option more than once during my short hiatus from blogging.

Summer’s end brought a rush and immediacy back to work, so much so that even the thought of another minute with a computer at the end of the day sent me to the bottle.  So instead of blogging, I’ve been working and drinking (the first too much, the second not nearly enough).  But I did find time to enjoy a drink or two, and perhaps with my professional responsibilities returning to a manageable pace, I’ll have the time and energy to again convey my thoughts on a regular basis.

In the meantime, here’s a short list of a few things I’ve enjoyed since I last wrote here:

Dark and Stormies.  What better cocktail to enjoy while waiting out a hurricane?  Granted, it may not be the most appropriate drink during an earthquake, but what better options are there?  (Perhaps anything not poured from a glass container.)

The Dalmore 12 year old.  Thanks to my friend Lashdeep at Central Liquor for introducing me to this deliciously creamy and complex flavored Scotch whiskey.

– Gin Martinis.  Made with either Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire, up, with a touch of vermouth, and an olive – a traditional olive, without cheese stuffing or other such complications – the best cocktail with which to conclude the longest of work days.

Samuel Adam’s Harvest Collection.  Particularly the Octoberfest, Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and Bonfire Rauchbier, which have welcomed Washington’s early hints of autumn weather (which cannot arrive a moment too soon).

– Negronis.  A classic combination of gin, sweet (or red) vermouth, and Campari, expertly poured by two surprisingly friendly bartenders at Rye House, a new favorite stop in New York City.

Homemade Limoncello.  My inaugural batch of the Italian aperitif turned out more refreshing and clean than I had imagined, with only a hint of the Stolichnaya from which it was created.  This success inspired me to try again, and another batch – with Svedka as the base this time – is brewing atop my fridge as we speak (next to the plum and peach brandies, of course).

To you, my readers – thank you for keeping up with The Hip Flask, even during the recent drought of new content.  What have you been enjoying recently?

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm  Comments (7)  
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One Step Closer

Last week I ordered a martini after work – breaking news this is not.  But for me, the simple act of enjoying an ordinary martini has been impossible for quite a long time.  While sipping the icy cold cocktail with a colleague in a near-empty restaurant bar, I took a moment to reminisce about my drinking preferences: what led to my martini hiatus; my past attempts at reintroduction; and my current station, based on my new-found love affair with gin.

The story begins on a cold, winter afternoon over six years ago.  Low-hanging gray clouds blended with Washington’s stubby granite and marble skyline, which itself blended with dirty, soot-crusted patches of melting snow.  I was to meet several co-workers, as well as my girlfriend, for a Friday happy hour at a martini lounge that had recently opened in the lower level of a Capitol Hill row house.

Down the steps and into the darkly painted and dimly lit space, I wasted no time tying one on, as they say.  Only a short while later – say, about an hour – I was well into my third vodka martini and feeling tight.  Being a young man at the time, I had not yet mastered the delicate art of managing one’s buzz, manipulating time and drink to create the perfect combination.  Especially when consuming spirits, I would go from sober-as-a-priest to falling-down drunk.  Unfortunate yes, but nonetheless part of knowing your body’s chemistry, tastes, and faculties.  Thankfully my girlfriend was there in my hour of need, rescuing me from myself and along the way, witnessing things no young woman should ever have to see.

Weeks and months passed, then years, but I could not enjoy another martini following that experience.  Any time I so much as smelled vodka and vermouth together, my stomach would turn; the Garcia Effect had indeed taken firm hold.  Try as I might to reconstitute my taste for martinis, I was never able.

Years later, I found myself sitting at another bar with that same woman – now my wife – this time aboard a cruise liner touring the Caribbean Sea.  It was a special occasion and another attempt was in order; certainly it had been long enough for my body to forget the agony I have inflicted upon it.  But success was not to be.  Even the bar’s specialty martini – an Iceberg Martini, consisting of vodka, vermouth, and crème de menthe – could not fool my physiology’s memory.

Shortly after that trip I gave up trying to reacquire the taste: martinis would forever be crossed off my list of cocktail options.  I decided instead on whisky, the Manhattan being my cocktail of choice.  This was the routine until earlier this year, when I discovered the herbal wonders of gin.  This past February, I wrote about the Parisian Cocktail, an ordinary gin martini with crème de cassis.  It marked the beginning of my slow and cautious return to the classic martini.

Although as of late, the Negroni has been my cocktail du jour, it didn’t suit the hot weather last week and felt less than refreshing that afternoon with my colleague.  Why not try a gin martini?  This is, after all, as martini aficionados will inform you, the proper spirit with which to make the cocktail.  And the cold, crisp gin certainly sounded delicious on such a warm day.  Yet without a third ingredient to mask the taste and smell – menthe or cassis as in past attempts – I was afraid of embarrassing myself by viscerally reacting to the drink.  But after contemplating my choices for a few minutes, I thought what the hell? 

So, a gin martini it was.  And although it wasn’t an exact replica of the martini that so thoroughly entrenched my conditioned taste aversion, to me it represented progress.  Apparently, simply substituting one spirit for another was the key to appreciating this classic cocktail again.  Perhaps I’m closer than ever to a time when I can order a vodka martini without feeling immediately nauseous.  But let’s not push our luck.  No one wants to see that again.

Published in: on August 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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