By the time he sat down at the desk in his Jamaican villa to write Casino Royale, mid-century cocktail culture was growing rapidly. By the 1960s, the time of the first adaptation of one of Fleming’s 007 novels into a movie, cocktail culture was in full bloom. The Americano seems a fairly nondescript drink with which to kick off such a legendary drinking career as that of James Bond, though it’s doubtful that at the time he was writing Casino Royale Ian Fleming was thinking that the Americano would be examined as the drink that started an international phenomenon.
The Martini has been around since the mid-to-late 1800s. Its life has spanned the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Summer of Love, disco, punk, and Hammer Pants. It has been in style, out of fashion, and subject to the peculiar and not always trustworthy whims of the American drinker.
Nestled away on its own cul-de-sac off the storied Strand in the City of Westminster, with a tight turn-around that allegedly serves as the maximum turning radius for all London cabs, beneath a silver awning adorned with green neon, is the hotel that once played host to Winston Churchill’s wartime briefings, that even served as a triage center during the Blitz.
It’s night, when the city is at its best. To the brassy, aggressive strains of a jazz anthem composed by Elmer Bernstein, our point of view drifts through the glorious, desperate chaos of New York at night. Men in suits, women in cocktail dresses, stumbling into and out of nightclubs, into and out of cabs. Those who want to be seen, those who want to see. Movers, shakers, power players, hustlers, hyenas. The kings and queens, the wannabes, the has-beens, the never-will-bes.