This article is by guest writer David T Smith of Summer Fruit Cup.
James Bond is known for his discerning taste in matters of food and drink, but, occasionally, he takes advice from a companion, whether that be M’s thought on wine or a field agent’s opinion of the local hooch. An example of such a drink is The Stinger, which Bond first drinks in Diamonds are Forever.
Bond obviously has a taste for the drink, as, in Thunderball, he orders another one, this time to accompany after-dinner coffee with Leiter at the Nassau Casino. This mix of Brandy and Creme de Menthe is often seen as a good digestif.
Information on the origins of The Stinger is thin on the ground; unusually, there are not even any urban legends or stories describing the creation of the drink in a moment of serendipity by a prominent bartender.
An early recorded recipe for a “Stinger” can be found in Tom Bullock’s ‘Ideal Bartender’ from 1917; however, the underlying combination of Cognac and white Creme de Menthe appears in an 1891 bar book as the “Judge” cocktail.
The recipe that I typically use comes from the 1957 Esquire book, simply entitled “Drink”. A Stinger usually uses white Creme de Menthe, although there is no discernible difference in taste between this and the version that uses the green variety, which is known as an Emerald or Dinosaur. The Brandy could be of any variety, but, as with the Sidecar cocktail, I find using an inexpensive, quality Cognac can really make a difference.
The Creme de Menthe I have used is Giffard’s Menthe Pastille. This has a fresher and less sweet flavour than most others, which makes it more mixable and less overpowering in drinks.
The Cognac I have used is De Luze VSOP, which is made by a family with 22 generations of experience in wine production. De Luze make Cognacs that are used to blend some of the highest quality Cognacs from the most famous houses.
But how does it taste?
This is a cloudy, light brown mix with an initial, strong flavour of dark sugar that is followed by a cooling menthol note. As you drink it, the drink begins to clear in the glass and, as you sip, the flavours of the Cognac become more prominent and the mint flavour takes a back seat.
This a crisp and refreshing cocktail and a great alternative to an after-dinner mint. I can see why Bond enjoys it with coffee.
The Stinger is a cocktail that I can enjoy again and again, and, although the Cognac and/or Creme de Menthe might initially put you off, I recommend taking a leaf out of 007’s book and giving it a try.
David T Smith runs the blog Summer Fruit Cup, looking at all things related to drink and drinking. Topics covered include tasting and reviews, cocktail history and vintage bar-ware.
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