James Bond: Master Spy Or Alcoholic?

James Bond Martini

A new study claims that James Bond is an alcoholic:

(CNN) — Alcohol. Bond’s alcohol.

The British spy James Bond may routinely get himself out of dangerous situations with skill and charm, but his body may be suffering all the while because of his drinking habits. British researchers predict he could die from alcohol-related causes, such as liver damage, by age 56.

Scientists wanted to examine just how much alcohol the famous fictional secret agent consumes, and what effect that could have on his health. They published a study, led by Graham Johnson of the emergency department of Royal Derby Hospital, in the British Medical Journal’s Christmas edition, which features a variety of offbeat research papers.

Researchers found Bond’s weekly alcohol consumption totaled 92 units a week, which is more than four times what doctors recommend. A real person would not be able to carry out such complicated tasks and function as well as Bond does while maintaining such habits, they conclude.

A unit of alcohol is defined as 10 milliliters or 8 grams of pure ethanol in the United Kingdom. For some perspective on that, a bottle of wine is nine units, and a pint of beer is three, according to this study.

The finding of 92 units a week could actually be the low end of the truth, as studies have shown that “people generally underestimate their alcohol consumption by about 30%,” the study said, noting other research has demonstrated that health surveys don’t account for about half of all alcohol sold.

In other words, Bond may be drinking much more than the large quantities portrayed in the books.

“We advise an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment,” the study authors wrote, as well as “a reduction in alcohol to safe levels.”

The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley is having none of it:

[T]he writers of this report have missed the entire point of Bond – and of all pulp fiction. Pulp heroes are guys who live as guys would really like to if they could: drinking, smoking and yet still saving the world and getting the girl (and shooting her if she turns out to be a double agent). They’re not supposed to be realistic because if they were then Bond would probably be a boring health freak who spends his life sipping orange juice, decoding messages and never, ever chasing bad asses in a flying car. In short: no one wants to read the Bond that the science drones would have us read. He’s be Thunderbore. For Your Closed Eyes Only. On Her Majesty’s Sober Service. You get the idea.

Stanley is right, of course. Treating an archetypal like James Bond in this manner and judging him as you’d judge a human being who actually exists is like trying to figure out how many Interstellar Venereal Diseases James Kirk may have been exposed to during he course of his career. It kind of misses the point that this is fiction. Relax and enjoy it.

On a final note, Jazz Shaw has this to add:

If you’re the people spending your time complaining about how much James Bond drank or what a bad role model James Bond is, I’m betting James Bond would kick your *** for you in a New York minute.

Then he would order another Martini, shaken not stirred of course, and scan the room for his next, umm, conquest.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    The research paper is interesting, and in its way at least as fun as a Bond movie or novel. (Many of those are a slog.) For that matter, critiques of Bond have been the basis of brilliant spy fiction – Len Deighton’s 1960s novels and the 1970s Sandbaggers TV show in Britain come to mind. John LeCarre has said straight out in interviews that Bond would be prime double-agent material because of his lifestyle.

    Against this set of traditions we have the sub-Mittyish resentment of Jazz Shaw and Doug and this Tim Stanley person at spoilsports intruding on their daydreams of the sort of masculinity pantomime one finds in liquor commercials, presumably because this ideal is working out for them. Because what says manhood like sleeping with a woman and then shooting her because she’s evil. Put me down on the side of the point-missers. If this means a fictional character kicks me “***,” well, that will be something to experience.

  2. An Interested Party says:

    British researchers predict he could die from alcohol-related causes, such as liver damage, by age 56.

    Interesting that they should pick that number, as it is the exact age of James Bond’s creator when he died…

  3. @Jim Henley:

    Must you take the fun out of everything?

  4. Jim Henley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I believe the operative reply here is, “NO YOU!”

    Plainly the researchers were having fun. You and your dudebros sh;t all over them for it. Len Deighton clearly had a ton of fun writing the novels from IPCRESS File through Catch a Falling Spy and I had fun reading them. Sandbaggers was “fun” if, in a couple of amazing episodes, heartbreaking. LeCarre is a hilariously entertaining interviewee and essayist. All this fun without even shooting any women after one has slept with them. It’s kind of wondrous.

  5. Woody says:

    Add the sixty triple-banded Morland Turkish cigarettes a day – by Mr Bond’s own admission – and 56 sounds more likely . . .

    unless one is reading this at the Daily Mail, in which case Bond is 106 years old, and hates how England has gone soft.

  6. Moosebreath says:

    “James Bond: Master Spy Or Alcoholic?”

    The correct answer is “Both”.

  7. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: The more interesting thing to me about the research “results” was how unextrordinary they were. James Bond novels by Flemming were written between 1954 and 1966 (thanks, Wikipedia). I’m old enough to remember that dying in your 50s was not all that unusual back then.

    James Bond would have lived to an age that men who lived similar lifestyles lived to in those days. In other news, snow is cold and rain is wet.

  8. Motopilot says:

    I saw The Thin Man on TCM this evening and, while Dashiel Hammett’s character was a detective rather than a spy, by comparison Nick Charles makes James Bond seem like a lightweight.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    As someone who worked for the DIA in the 70s I can tell you that most spies in Europe were boring sociopaths who smoked hashish and drank cheap wine not martinis.

  10. dazedandconfused says:

    I knew an old WW2 fighter pilot, Jack Hayes. Family friend. He wrote a book “Three Wars”. Said that in WW2 the aircrews knew they had waaay less than a 50% chance of living for an extended period during the early stages. Said that most of the ones that did last, but didn’t break down psychologically, got drunk as a skunk more nights than not. Said that he thought that a hung-over indifference was about the only thing that kept a lot of them “together”.

    If James Bond was a Mormon he would probably have collapsed in a heap of sobbing PTSD about 30 years ago.