Those noted boozehounds Ian Fleming and Winston Churchill are sharing a drink at the bar. It’s the early 1950s: Churchill is between stints as prime minister and Fleming working on his debut novel featuring a British spy named James Bond. The subject of their conversation is not the recent World War or the escalating Cold one but another of their shared interests – namely, drink.
The bar hosting the two gentlemen is that of Jamaica Inn, a popular resort on the northern coast of the island. Fleming and Churchill are debating how to best prepare one’s martini to ensure maximum refreshment under the hot Caribbean sun.
In 1953, Fleming will publish Casino Royale and create the most famous cocktail in literature. Who knows how much of its inspiration dates back to that Jamaica afternoon with the erstwhile PM? Did Sir Winston growl: “Listen, Fleming. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?” Probably not. But you can’t rule out the possibility.
Churchill certainly visited Jamaica Inn, even doing a painting of the hotel – it’s now owned by the Sultan of Brunei. He stayed in the White Suite, where a plaque now stands at the entrance in honour of the great man. Fleming was a resident of Jamaica and a frequenter of the Inn: his GoldenEye estate stands just 20 minutes’ drive along the coast. The two men dreaming up the Vesper Martini may be a local legend but that’s the thing about legends: it’s best to print them.
One truth that cannot be disputed: sip a rum punch on the lawn of Jamaica Inn and the possibilities seem as boundless as the horizon. Even by the competitive standards of Caribbean resorts, it’s a stunner: white verandas yielding to green lawns yielding to blue sea. You can easily see what possessed the entrepreneurial Morrow brothers to buy the resort in 1958 – the family still owns it today – and why so many of the great, good and glamorous have chosen to holiday here.
Indeed, the Jamaica Inn guestlist reads like the dinner party of your dreams. Noel Coward was another local resident and makes frequent mention of the resort in his diaries. Errol Flynn, Vivian Leigh, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller also rocked up over the years. You didn’t need to be one of the great cultural figures of the 20th century to stay here – but it helped.
Today, visitors can enjoy such luxuries as snorkelling in the cove, croquet on the lawn and fresh seafood dinners on the terrace. Pat the resident black labrador, Shadow IV – and be sure to order a Vesper of an evening.
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Jamaica Inn, Main Street, Ocho Rios, Jamaica. For more information, see jamaicainn.com