Shaken, Not Stirred: What a Character’s Signature Cocktail Says About Them
By Diane KellyJune 7, 2022
Writers use many things to subtly establish a character’s personality in a story. The type of clothing a character chooses to wear can paint a vivid picture of the character’s persona, as does the way they style their hair, the type of car they drive, where they live, and how they decorate their home. Their tastes in literature, art, and music also hint at a character’s qualities. One interesting way some writers shrewdly reveal a character’s disposition and temperament is by the adult beverages they have their character favor.
Perhaps the most well-known example is James Bond, who is known for his signature cocktail—a martini “shaken, not stirred.” Ian Fleming came up with the cocktail in Casino Royale, the first of his books starring the iconic character. What does this choice of libation tell us about Bond? First, it tells us he does things his own way. Martinis are generally stirred, not shaken, but he has no problem breaking with tradition if it suits him. Shaking introduces tiny ice particles into the drink, giving it a less-smooth texture, but Bond doesn’t need things to be soft and easy. Shaking a martini dilutes it more than stirring because more melted ice gets into the drink. Perhaps Bond requested his martinis shaken because he wanted to keep a clearer head while investigating his cases.
Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe was introduced to the Gimlet by his friend Terry Lennox in The Long Goodbye. Marlowe later complains how a particular bar prepares their gimlets, pointing out that the “gimlet” they serve is an imposter drink with incorrect ingredients. This bit of conversation shows an attention to detail, a penchant for adherence to rules, and a dislike of being tricked.
Parker Valentine, the winemaker and amateur sleuth in Kate Lansing’s Colorado Wine Mystery series prefers a glass of vino to a cocktail. The characters in Ellen Crosby’s The Wine Country Mysteries likewise prefer wine to hard liquor. Wine is intended to be sipped and savored for its subtle notes. Likewise, characters who drink wine are slow and methodical when searching for clues and sussing out the evidence, and are able to detect discreet details others might overlook. Wine is also a more traditional drink, and those who prefer vino can be expected to have some traditional traits as well.
Joyce Tremel’s Brewing Trouble Mysteries star beer brewmaster Maxine “Max” O’Hara. Max traveled all the way to Germany to earn her brewmaster certification. Clearly, she’s a tenacious person who is going to do whatever it takes to ensure guilty criminals get their “mug” shot taken. Beer is neither fussy nor pretentious, and those who drink it aren’t either. Ellie Alexander’s Sloan Krause series also features a woman who makes, and drinks, craft beer. What does this tell us? She’s trendy, nontraditional, and willing to learn new things. Those who are willing to learn don’t shy away from asking probing questions and searching for answers any way they can.
In my Southern Homebrew series, my main character, Hattie Hayes, is a modern-day moonshiner. When making her moonshine, she uses the same family recipe that has been passed down for generations—and landed her great-granddaddy in the pokey during Prohibition. Moonshine smacks of history and nostalgia, but has a mischievous implication in light of the fact that many who made it were rulebreakers. Not only were the moonshiners skirting the law, but their drivers were also fast and fearless, willing to go on a wild ride. Although Hattie prefers light, fruity flavors of moonshine, she nonetheless has a penchant for bending the rules and pushing things to the limit to get the answers she seeks.
What does your favorite cocktail say about you?