August 25: Sean Connery

Bond MartiniSean Connery, the man many consider to be the definitive James Bond, was born today in 1930. Prior to being cast as Commander Bond in 1962’s Dr. No, Connery was just another working actor. He had done some stage work and some films, including a prominent role in Walt Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People, but it was his performance as Bond that catapulted him onto the A-List.

But did you know that Connery wasn’t the first choice for the role of 007? Dr. No producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli initially wanted Cary Grant to play the part, but allegedly Grant would only commit to one picture and the Bond producers were looking for someone who’d be willing to star in a series of films. Many notable actors were considered for the part: Patrick McGoohan (who had previously played a spy on Danger Man, and would later take on a similar role on The Prisoner), David Niven (who would play one of several James Bonds in the pseudo-spoof Casino Royale), and a young actor named Roger Moore (who would take over the role of Bond in 1973’s Live And Let Die).

Eventually, the Daily Express newspaper held a contest to find James Bond. The winner, a model named Peter Anthony, did a screen test for Saltzman, Broccoli and Bond creator Ian Fleming. where it quickly became apparent that Anthony looked the part but could not act it. So, the team tested one of the contest’s runners up, Sean Connery who arrived at the audition scruffy looking and in shabby dress. Despite his appearance, the producers liked Connery’s roguish, devil-may-care spirit and soon offered him the role. Director Terence Young took the young actor under his wing, and taught him the ways of Bondian class and style. Fleming was less than impressed with the casting of Connery, saying “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man.” However he changed his tune after seeing the premier screening of Dr. No, and in later Bond novels Fleming gave the superspy a half-Scottish, half-Swiss heritage.

Oh, one last thing. In 1970 the Saltzman and Broccoli were looking for a new actor to play Bond after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service star George Lazenby quit, or according to other sources fired from, the franchise. Eventually, Connery was courted back for one more film (1971’s camptastic Diamonds Are Forever), but not before a few other actors were considered for the part…including a now ex-model named Peter Anthony.

So, to honor Sean Connery, there’s really only one drink we can make: The Vesper, created by Commander Bond himself in the novel Casino Royale:

“A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Oui, monsieur.”
“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?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

Later on in the book, Bond names the drink after his love interest the mysterious Vesper Lynd. In real life, the Vesper was created by Ian Fleming’s friend Ivar Bryce and Fleming wrote a special note in Bryce’s copy of Casino Royale reading “For Ivar, who mixed the first Vesper and said the good word.” Amusingly enough, although the Vesper (made shaken, not stirred) has become forever associated with Bond, this is the only time in any of Fleming’s novels that he orders the drink.

We have to make two notes about the ingredients: In the sixty years since the publication of Casino Royale, Kina Lillet was reformulated and rebranded as the now fruitier and less bitter Lillet Blanc, so pick up a bottle of Cocchi Americano and use that instead. Gordon’s Gin has also been reformulated in the last sixty years and the original 90 proof gin is no longer available, so if you want your Vesper to taste like Bond’s, track down a 90+ proof gin like Bombay Sapphire.

Vesper

  • 3 ounces Gin (preferably 90 proof)
  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Cocchi Americano aperitif wine

Pour everything into a cocktail shaker and “shake it very well until it’s ice-cold,” strain into a “deep champagne goblet” and “add a thin slice of lemon peel.”

Tomorrow: In a world…

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