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Red Menace Martinis
10.24.2003 by Sarah.


[Author's note: Our heroine showed up at the cast party for a play with which I was involved last winter. While the cast and crew reminisced about the theater, she sat in the corner wearing a furry hat and a t-shirt with a picture of Che Guevara on the front. She drank a gin martini. Or rather, she drank four gin martinis and a shot of Baileys, which didn't go down well at all.]

See this? This is a gin martini. That's what a martini is, by default. Made of gin. It's James Bond's fault that the vodka martini has come into existence--before him, the vodka martini didn't exist at all. Pure sacrilege, if you ask me, and even more that that, it's a conspiracy.

That's the funny thing about conspiracies. Sheer deviousness is rarely hidden. Leave it out in the open for the world to see, say that it isn't there at all, and no one will see it. Why would Agent 007, James Bond, the chief British weapon against the communist menace, drink a quintessentially Russian spirit? Why would he consume, in quantities far surpassing casual fancy, a product that has defined Eastern Europe for centuries?

Because Bond, in his heyday, was the fictional figurehead of an insidious plot to weaken the United States in the Cold War against the Soviets. You laugh. Ha. Ha ha! HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAaaaa!

It isn't Ian Fleming's doing, really. He mentioned the vodka martini, shaken not stirred, as an afterthought. It was in the first Bond movie that Bond's formula became his trademark:

Dr. No: "A medium dry martini, lemon peel, shaken, not stirred."
Bond: "Vodka?"
Dr. No: "Of course."

Clearly, then, we must point fingers at the screenwriter, Richard Maibaum, or at the producers Albert "Russkie Lover" Broccoli and Irving "Born in Poland" Allen. Both Allen and Maibaum, New York born and bred, were undoubtedly members of the New York City Communist subculture in the '40s and '50s. During the Second World War, Russian-style socialists paraded under the banner of the Popular Front and anti-fascism, but were quickly driven underground during McCarthy's reign of terror in the senate. No longer allowed to pledge their allegiance to the Commie flag in public, Maibaum, Broccoli, and the Polish-born Irving found a subtler, yet far more subversive, method of supporting the Slavs. Through product placement.

Since the 1930s, Stalin's Russia used the profits from the sale of Russian vodka to support its domestic and foreign programs. During the Soviet era, upwards to 40 percent of all state revenues came from taxes on exports and domestic sales of the spirit. Over the next few decades, the production of Russian alcohol doubled as demand grew. It is not hard to imagine that a good share of the demand was created by the Bond sensation. Maibaum, Broccoli and Irving were stimulating the Russian economy with a series of ostensibly anti-Russian movies. You can bet that some of the money made from vodka sales went to build weapons that were aimed at American babies alseep in their cradles. And American kittens. Little ones.

In the first Bond movie alone, three separate scenes feature bottles of Smirnoff Vodka, red label twice, blue label once. Smirnoff remained Bond's brand of choice for much of the series, though Absolut, and more recently, Finlandia, have taken over. None of these, not even Smirnoff, are Russian vodkas. Pierre Smirnoff, of course, opened his distillery during his exile in France. This insidious detail only serves to prove Broccoli's genius. No one could directly accuse him of supporting the Russians. If he were, wouldn't he feature Stolichnaya?

So Americans and British moviegoers ate up the Bond phenomenon. Vodka martinis, shaken, not stirred, became a standard. The free world was lulled into a false complacency about its position in the Cold War--clearly the Russians were fools, if they could be defeated time and again by a single agent--while developing a taste for Russian vodka, Russian machinery, not to mention sluttish Soviet women in tight shirts. It has even been said that the Russian military officers throughout the series bear the names of famous Russian authors. Of course, the Soviets lost the Cold War and the whole nation has since collapsed in an alcoholic stupor. But vodka martinis remain, a testimony to the will of three American Communists. It is amazing to me that no one has caught on yet. Vodka martinis are anti-American. They don't taste as good as the gin ones, either.




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