Friday 18 November 2011

Drinking for England: analysis of 007's alcohol consumption

Back in 2009 I analysed the food and eating habits of the literary James Bond. I ignored drinks then, but there's no reason why Bond's drinking habits couldn't be examined using similar statistical methods. David Leigh's Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond provides a quick and comprehensive reference to all Bond's drinks, both in the films and books, and I've been able to turn the information into a useful database.

Let's start with some basic drinking facts. There are a total of 48 individual types of alcoholic drink; 39 of them a
re mentioned in the books, 22 appear in the films. Bond drinks on 147 occasions: 89 type of drinks are consumed in the books, while 58 drinks are taken in the films (not including repetition of the same drink in a single film). The most popular drink in the books is whisky (appearing in 12 books); in the films, the most popular drink is (yes, you've guessed it) vodka martini (12 films), closely followed by Bollinger (11 films, although champagne as a whole is drunk in 19 films). If we include gin martinis and vespers, martinis as a class are consumed in 13 books and 17 films.

The literary Bond takes a more varied range of drinks than the cinematic Bond. An average of 6.8 types of drinks are consumed in the books, compared with 2.6 types of drink per film. This does not necessarily mean that the book Bond is a heavier drinker; the film Bond could simply be drinking the same type of drink on more than one occasion in the same film. Arranging the books in publication sequence, the trend in terms of drinks-per-book is upwards. In Casino Royale (1953), Bond takes 7 types of drink, in From Russia with Love (1957) he takes 9 drinks, and in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963), he has 12 types of drink. The number falls back for You Only Live Twice (1964) and The Man With the Golden Gun (1965), at 3 and 2 drinks respectively. The profi
le for the film series is generally flatter. The rate starts low with 2 drink types in Dr No (1962), increasing to 4 drinks in You Only Live Twice (1967). Most films between 1974 and 1999 have one or two types of drink only, but the number jumps to 5 in Casino Royale (2006).

Sometimes there is a run of the same drink in a sequence of novels or films. For instance, the vodka martini appears first in Live and Let Die (1954) and is mentioned in the next five books. Whisky has an unbroken run in the first four novels, then appears intermittently thereafter. There is a short run of whisky in the film series. Dom Perignon has a good film run from Dr No (1962) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) (with three gaps), but is replaced by Bollinger, which has an unbroken run from A View to a Kill (1985) to Quantum of Solace (2008). Presumably thi
s reflects product-placement deals. As noted above, the vodka martini does not feature in every film. However, it appears in every film from GoldenEye (1995) to Casino Royale. For its appearance in GoldenEye, it may have been used to reassert the Bond character after a gap of six years, and it's possible that the martini was used to the same effect in The Spy Who Loved Me. The drink hadn't appeared since Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and the film was released after a three-year gap in Bond films.

Looking at broader drinks categories (beer, champagne, cocktails, spirits (including fortified wine) and wine), cocktails take the highest share of drinks both in the books and films. Thirty-five per cent of drinks consumed in the books are cocktails, compared with 36% in the films. Champagne is the next highest in the films (33% of drinks), but accounts only for 13% in the books. Spirits make a larger contribution to the books (31%), but a relatively small one in the films (19%). Some 15% of drinks consumed in the books is wine, which takes a 9% share in the films. The proportion of beer is small in both the books and films (6% and 3% respectively).

These differences between the books and films are evident when we analyse these data using correspondence analysis. The end product of analysis is the scattergram. Films or books that are similar in terms of the drinks that they contain will occupy more or less the
same space on the plot. Those that are different with regard to their composition tend to be set apart from the others.

On that basis, most of the films are in the top right quadrant of the plot and are strongly associated with champagne and cocktails (mainly martinis). Most of the books are on the left-hand side of the plot and have a much stronger association with wine and spirits than do the films. There are exceptions; a number of films, notably Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, have a similar composition to books in terms of drinks represented and, matching the profile of the literary Bond most closely, are grouped with the books We can also note a group of books and films in the bottom right quadrant that are more strongly associated with beer, compared with other books and films.

What the correspondence analysis shows is that the film Bond and book Bond have separated in terms of their drinking identity. With the use of the vodka martini and champagne, the film Bond's drinking habits clearly derive from the books, but the dominance of cocktails and champagne, at the expense of spirits and wines (which have a stronger emphasis in the books), shows that those drinking habits have diverged from the habits of the literary Bond. And with each film, which nearly always inherits the martini and champagne memes from the previous film, this identity becomes increasingly deeper rooted, fixing these drinks associations firmly into popular culture.

Mind you, the exceptions are interesting too. The classes of drinks represented in the films Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's Secret Service very closely match the drinks represented in the films' literary counterparts (as shown on the scattergram). It's probably no coincidence that for both films, the film-makers deliberately returned to the novels to bring the films back to Fleming basics. From the evidence of the alcoholic beverages, they succeeded.


  1. Interesting post!

    Re: Bond's whisky consumption -- I don't recall Fleming specifying, but do you suppose it's of the Scotch, or American Bourbon (whiskey) variety? I vaguely recall, but I can't place it, a reference to "Old Grand-Dad," which would indicate the latter (unless he was simply drinking what Felix Leiter would've offered here in the US). It's been said that Bond's liking for vodka was an illustration of his innate feelings of "un-Englishness;" perhaps a preference for Bourbon would be the same.

  2. There are many types of alcoholics that are present these days and they continue to be among the drinks and beverages that people loves to taste, and some business also profit from such types of beverages. But, they also need to remember about retailing such alcoholic drinks to people. In this case, there also exist a responsible alcohol retailing for business owners and to their employees to learn and get certified first before they can offer their service.

  3. Some interesting recent pieces that follow your lead are posted below, Edward. Don't know if you've seen any of these or not, but they are rather prestigious - the second link is to an article in the British Medical Journal! Thought I'd share them with you as they are very much related (even indebted?) to your blog post here. It's interesting to note too that James Bond (were he a real person) was to die at the age of 56 from an alcohol-related disease. Ian Fleming also died at that young age too. Rather telling on the links between the two, I think(!)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.