Friday, December 16, 2016

'For Your Eyes Only' with a Negroni

I was once told that you have to drink Campari at least 3 times before you develop a taste (tolerance?) for it. I might have made it to 4, I still find it unpleasantly bitter, but we sell a surprising amount if it so I'm not necessarily in the majority on this one. Negroni's seem to be remaining a thing as well, so much so that pre made versions are now available from Waitrose (supermarkets wait a goodish go there timevto be sure something is going to be worth the selling space).

It's a simple cocktail, the classic version being equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth. If it truly was invented in 1919, or earlier, than the authentic gin to use would probably be a slightly sweeter old Tom style, rather than a London dry. At least one recipe I've seen ups the ratio of gin, and there's plenty of discussion to be had about the brand of vermouth to use.

I don't really have the required patience to make anything more complicated than a gin and tonic at home, and figure that a pre mixed bottle of negroni saves on both washing up and recycling, so seems quite acceptable to me. I also find that Christmas is the only time of year that I find negroni's at all appealing - the bitterness makes a good counterpoint to all the rich food going around, it also stops me knocking them back particularly quickly.

I've been thinking about possible book matches for Negroni's (or Campari) all day with limited success - they speak to me of 1950's and 60's Italy and a dolce vita outlook - which doesn't particularly reflect my reading, but when I started hunting references I came up with Ian Fleming's 'For Your Eyes Only' which seems perfect.

It's a collection of short stories, which I always consider to be a win, possibly perfect for pre dinner reading with an appropriate aperitif... It was published around 1960 which matches the Mad Men vibe Negroni's give me, and Fleming and Bond do an appropriate sort of seedy glamour to a tee. I suspect that these days more people are familiar with the films than they are the books which would make 'For Your Eyes Only' a fairly safe stocking filler or token gift too - at least for those likely to enjoy the nostalgia, the action, or the drink spotting. (I admit to the latter, it's probably obvious by now how much I love details like that.)


  1. Mr Bond in book or movie form was never to my taste (apart from Matt Monro singing From Russia With Love) but if you want seedy, go to Richard Burton's weary intelligence officer Leamas in Sidney Furie's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.
    'Camapari?' I can imagine him growling to Cyril Cusack. 'Make it a Scotch, Control, and a bloody large one.'
    Doesn't Campari and Negroni belong more thrillingly to Fellini's La Dolce Vita, and to the two movies Antonioni made with Monica Vitti?
    Last week I purchased Antonioni's early movie, Story of A Love Affair which looks quite stunning in its restoration from the original 35mm print.
    Do not listen to the horrid American dubbed version, but click on to the Italian with English subtitles option.
    A great evening in for just £5.
    In this movie they all drink Negronis, smoke furiously and look enigmatic.
    No director alive can recreate that world.
    J Haggerty

    1. I'm not a big Bond fan but in small doses find the books entertaining. The films were a background to childhood so come with enough nostalgia to make them palatable. I find Bond's excessive approach to drinking a salutary reminder not to emulate him, and Campari bitter enough not to want to in this case. La Dolce Vita would be a much more thrilling match and is probably why negroni's are so popular (or at least a good part of why) but there's still something about Fleming that clicks for me.

  2. Can't I get anything right?
    The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (surely the best espionage movie after Graham Greene's screenplay of The Third Man) was directed by Martin Ritt.
    Sidney Furie directed The Deadly Affair based on an early Le Carre novel.
    In that film the intelligence officer James Mason has to question Simone Signouret over the death of her husband. They play wonderfully together.
    On YouTube you can now watch The Defector (1966) an underrated spy thriller and the last film in the tragic and brilliant career of Montgomery Clift.
    I'm fond of The Quiller Memorandum (YouTube) based on the novel by Adam Hall.
    It has the enchanting Senta Berger and a lush John Barry score with Matt Monro singing Wednesday's Child.
    As a youngster I loved spy thrillers (apart from Fleming) because they provided such a good lesson in European history - Eric Ambler's The Schirmer Inheritance being a good example.
    I picked up my copy of Ambler's novel at Prestwick Airport in 1967 and have never looked back.
    In the early 80s in Charing Cross I saw Len Deighton in a used bookstore. He had just purchased a copy of A Bridge Too Far, but I was too bashful to speak to him.
    Le Carre said James Bond would make a very untrustworthy spy.
    Graham Greene cut off all contact with Le Carre after Le Carre wrote an introduction to a book titled Philby: The Spy Who Betrayed A Generation.
    Philby was responsible for the death of many British agents and innocent people in Communist countries, so it was wrong of Greene to take such a priggish attitude.
    I dislike the CIA more than I can express in polite language.
    There's a terrific history of the Agency called A Legacy of Ashes published by Penguin, though I can't remember the writer's name.
    I have a copy of William Colby's memoirs, Honorable Men, which he wrote after being sacked as CIA director.
    Colby mentions the exact sum (millions of dollars) spent by the Nixon administration which was used to destabilise Allende's democratically elected government in Chile.
    Yet it is hard to demonise Colby (an OSS commando in Nazi-occupied France) because he co-operated so openly with the Senate investigation into the CIA's covert and criminal activities throughout the world.
    Colby's son has a perplexing YouTube documentary about his father, The Man Nobody Knew.
    William Colby was drowned in a boating accident though conspiracists tell a darker story.
    Thanks to your Blog List I discovered a kind of sci-fi spy thriller set in post-Brexitland.
    It's called Europe in Autumn and the author is Dave Hutchison who published his prophetic novel in 2014.
    James Brady who wrote The Three Days of the Condor is on YouTube talking about his days as a Washington researcher.
    Who can forget Max Von Sydow's gentle assassin in the film of the novel?
    Lastly take a look at Rebecca West's novel The Birds Fall Down.
    It is a kind of spy novel set in Czarist Russia. Brilliant, like everything she wrote.
    J Haggerty

  3. Surely Sarah Crowe's novel 'Campari for Breakfast'. :)

    1. I haven't read it... but the thought of Campari for actual breakfast makes me shudder. Though I suppose it would wake me up. I need to go and investigate the book now.

  4. YouTube.
    James Grady: Last Days of the Condor.
    James Grady: Profile.
    To be enjoyed late at night with a malt whisky and sparkling water
    The way my Daddy drank it.
    They say the Spooks in Langley, Virginia (CIA HQ) love their expensive Scotch.
    Can't be all bad, ay?
    J Haggerty

  5. This could be a habit.
    I have just visited A Pile of Leaves and Book Snob on your list.
    Book Snob recommends two reissues by R.C. Sherriff, Greengates and The Fortnight in September.
    Two novels from the playwright of the First World War.
    A Pile of Leaves recommends The Mirror Image Ghost by Catherine Storr who wrote the memorable novel Marianne Dreams some years ago. Published by Faber.
    He also recommends Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber (Fontana Science Fiction) which reminds him of the psychogeography of Iain Sinclair's writing and Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor.
    He does not enjoy the 'state of trance' which Sinclair and Ackroyd encourage.
    I am not sure about the term 'trance'.
    I am reminded of the artist in an Elizabeth Taylor novel who no longer wants her paintings to put people under an enchantment.
    Iain Sinclair's new book, The Black Apples of Gower (Little Toller) is all about enchantment.
    He writes about the Gower Peninsula of South Wales which he first explored as a child on holiday.
    It is a magical book published by Little Toller and beautifully illustrated.
    The reader feels under an enchantment yet never constrained.
    J Haggerty