James Bond's famous preference for shaken martinis is probably due to the fact that his heavy drinking means that his hands tremble so much he actually lacks the coordination to stir them, according to a festive-season medical research study.
"We conclude that James Bond was unlikely to be able to stir his drinks, even if he would have wanted to, because of likely alcohol induced tremor," write Mr Graham Johnson (emergency medicine doctor*) and two eminent medical colleagues, in a sort-of-lighthearted piece for the BMJ.
The docs have analysed the Bond novels by Ian Fleming to produce a picture of 007's alcohol consumption. This has always been well-known to be dangerously high, but even so the researchers profess themselves flabbergasted by what they found. Bearing in mind that the British government says that men should not drink more than 21 units** of alcohol per week:
Taking into account days when he was unable to drink, [Bond's] average alcohol consumption was 92 units a week (1150 units over 87.5 days). Inclusion of the days incarcerated brings his consumption down to 65.2 units a week. His maximum daily consumption was 49.8 units (From Russia with Love day 3). He had 12.5 alcohol free days out of the 87.5 days on which he was able to drink.
In the doctors' view this is a level of boozing which would easily have seen Bond generally unable to accomplish any complex physical tasks - not just stirring a martini, but hitting things with pistol fire, escaping or pursuing bad guys in car chases, enjoying a spot of boudoir athletics with a femme fatale etc etc. The docs write:
Despite his alcohol consumption, he is still described as being able to carry out highly complicated tasks and function at an extraordinarily high level. This is likely to be pure fiction ...
He is also at high risk of suffering from sexual dysfunction, which would considerably affect his womanising.
The authors speculate that in fact it is Bond's naval background which leads him to be such a massive boozer, rather than his "high stress" occupation as a covert government assassin.
Bond was, first and foremost, a sailor, so his drinking habits might have their root in his original profession.
The somewhat politically correct analysis can be read here.
The whole notion is plainly rubbish. The basic idea that Bond chooses shaken martinis rather than stirred because his hands shake so much indicates shoddy research, as "shaken not stirred" is an idea from the movies not the books (the study is supposedly based on the books). Furthermore, Bond almost always has his martini mixed for him as opposed to doing it himself - and then, anyone who actually drinks martinis from a martini glass knows that drinking them with any poise requires considerably more dexterity than stirring them.
It's surely true that drinking heavily does not enhance performance with a pistol***, behind the wheel or (except perhaps in the case of very young men) in the boudoir. It's also very plain that sustained boozing on the Bond level will shorten your life.
But when you're James Bond 007, that latter is a fairly foolish position to take. Even the study authors admit that a Double-O agent can normally expect to have died violently well before mandatory retirement at the age of 45, so worrying about a death at an average age of 59 from liver cirrhosis would be pretty foolish in Bond's case.
Most of us aren't Double O assassins, of course, and a Bond-esque boozing level of half a bottle of spirits per day - let alone a Fleming-esque full bottle a day - will indeed shorten our lives noticeably (though in that case we will be able to die smugly knowing that we have paid much more tax, taken up much less accommodation and drawn much less pension than a teetotaller, and so been far less of a burden on society).
And we might reflect even at our less highly-charged level of life that just as extremely heavy drinking makes sense for Bond, it is more and more clear that a lesser level of boozing makes sense for us.
On a personal note: The docs are quite correct to suggest that Royal Navy sailors - and officers, like Commander Bond - are a high risk group for problem drinking, a fact that your correspondent remembers well from compulsory alcohol-danger lectures while serving in the RN.
An equally or even more endangered group, according to those lectures, were ... doctors, actually. (Navy doctors, watch out.)
Physician, heal thyself: and leave Commander Bond alone. ®
*Mr Johnson is a British consultant surgeon and as such doesn't use the title "doctor", though nowadays specialist surgeons start out as normal medical students and are regarded as being the social and professional equals (or in many cases the superiors) of physicians.
**Each unit is roughly half a pint of beer or one pub measure of spirits. If you as a man have one large/normal gin-&-tonic or one lonely beer on five days each week, for example, that's your lot. You cannot have any more booze than that - according to the government.
***Even the movie people admit this. In the recent outing Skyfall, Bond is shown shooting some rather unimpressive groups during testing having returned to duty following a bibulous interlude (M caustically remarking on his return: "run out of drink where you were, did they?"). Previously during medical inspection on liberation from North Korean imprisonment in Die Another Day we hear the lines "liver not too good" "it's definitely him, then".