Vodka: a shaken, but not stirred, history of the spirit on screen

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Vodka's rise to popularity wasn't just a matter of taste. As outlined in "Clear Thinking," this week's cover story, brilliant marketing also had a lot to do with the spirit's growth. And that marketing included placements in both movies and television shows -- sometimes purchased, sometimes just lucky.

Here are five classic, on-screen cocktail moments that helped vodka go from relative obscurity to America's number one spirit:

The Diddlebock, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, 1947
Before vodka really hit the mainstream, cinematic barman Jake made up a cocktail on the spot for Harold Diddlebock, who'd never before had an alcoholic beverage. The Diddlebock allows Harold to let loose, getting him into all sorts of ridiculous situations and thereby completely changing his life. One of the only named ingredients in the drink? Vodka.

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Vodka martini, shaken not stirred, James Bond series, starting in 1964
Though vodka was on the rise before the James Bond series hit the silver screen, the movies certainly propelled the spirit to higher levels (and even had Bond switching from the drink he'd favored in the early books). 007's unconventional vodka martini, shaken not stirred, also prompted many patrons to switch from gin. Sean Connery orders the cocktail on screen for the first time in 1964 during Goldfinger -- but it first appeared in the books in 1956 in Diamonds are Forever.

Cosmopolitan, Sex and the City, late 1990s
Carrie Bradshaw and her posse of girlfriends lived glamorous New York City lifestyles in an iconic six-season HBO television show watched by a generation of women. And while she and her pals dished on life and love, Bradshaw frequently ordered vodka mixed with cranberry and cointreau -- a.k.a. Cosmopolitans -- in hot Big Apple bars, launching vodka into the status symbol realm.

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White Russian, The Big Lebowski, 1998
It was no martini in an up glass, but Jeff Bridges's character, Jeff Lebowski, consumed a hell of a lot of vodka in this 1998 Coen Brothers movie -- it just happened to be mixed with kahlua and half-and-half and called a White Russian (or, as the Dude occasionally said, a "Caucasian").

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Vodka Gimlet, Mad Men, 2010
The rise of Mad Men happened to coincide with the resurgence of pre-Prohibition cocktail culture, and the show helped propel a lot of classics back into pop culture. Not least of those is the vodka gimlet, a blend of vodka and lime, which is Betty Draper's drink of choice when she's out on the town.

Have any favorite classic vodka moments from TV or film? Tell us about them below.

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Mark Antonation
Mark Antonation

My Ukrainian DNA predisposes me to enjoying deeply chilled vodka served in small shot glasses, but James Bond did the world a disservice by swapping out the gin for vodka in his martini. Gin is far superior in the gimlet as well.


I am a vodka fiend! I dont need someone on celluloid to tell me what to drink.. now im thirsty..Thanks Laura.. :-D

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