While vodka brands are barely mentioned in the books, the films are a different matter. While a bottle of vodka can be anonymous in print, on the big screen there always has to be a label to identify it.
While Ian Fleming named a vodka brand on just one occasion throughout all his novels and short stories (see What Vodka Does James Bond Drink?), Smirnoff appeared on screen from the word go.
Debuting in Dr No, when Bond is served a vodka martini in his room (“One medium dry vodka martini, mixed like you said, sir, and not stirred”) the brand has featured in many of the films after.
In fact, apart from a handful of films, Smirnoff has remained 007’s vodka of choice throughout the 50+ years of cinematic 007.
I have seen it suggested that the brand appeared in Dr No due to a product placement deal, but with the series unestablished at the point it seems unlikely. Smirnoff was simply a common brand of vodka and that was what the filmmakers went with.
Product placement deals did come later though but it is not clear when Smirnoff first paid to feature on screen. The more recent films thank official partners, but that very much a modern phenomenon.
While James Bond has a long association with Smirnoff going back to Dr No, Stolichnaya has also made an appearance on a number of occasions.
The first time was in You Only Live Twice, when Dikko Henderson served Bond his vodka martini stirred, not shaken. Next is in A View To A Kill, when 007 returns to the submarine in the pre-title sequence, which has luckily been fitted out with a bar stocked with a bottle of Stoli.
And in The Living Daylights Kara serves Bond a vodka martini made with Stoli that has chloral hydrate in it; the brand can also be seen briefly in Licence To Kill.
In Die Another Day Finlandia was the vodka of choice for 007 and is seen in the bar in the ice palace, where dozens of bottles are lined up on a shelf behind the bar. The company made much of the association at the time, which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the brand, but the relationship lasted just one film before Smirnoff returned in Casino Royale.
At the time Smirnoff said its target demographic was in the 21-29 age group, while James Bond fans were men aged 25-45, although when they came back on board with 007 in Casino Royale it was suggested they had taken their eye off the ball due to a corporate reorganisation.
In Skyfall when Bond is served a vodka martini at the Golden Dragon casino it appears to be made with Grey Goose. The brand was not one of the mentioned partners, who jointly paid a whopping $45 million for their association with 007.
Given Smirnoff’s long association with the Bond franchise it is slightly surprising that the brand was not on the list of sponsors. But with Grey Goose being served instead of Smirnoff perhaps the producers, despite a long association with the brand, were sending a message to the brand.
The question now is whether the official partners for Bond 24 will include a vodka brand and, if so, whether that brand will be Smirnoff.
Image courtesy of Smirnoff