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The famous “shaken, not stirred” James Bond catchphrase may very well have been coined at the bar at Jamaica Inn.
“Back in the day, this was Fleming’s bar of preference, his watering hole,” says Kyle Mais, general manager of Jamaica Inn, telling a story shared to a longstanding bartender who worked at the intimate resort for 60 years and served the likes of Princess Margaret and T. S. Eliot. “Teddy Tucker, his mentor told him a story of Ian Fleming and Winston Churchill having drinks one evening and they were discussing the fact that martinis weren’t a big thing back then. They decided to have a martini and said why don’t you put it in a mixer and shake it with ice because it was a hot summer’s evening. So the bartender shook it and then poured it and then voila, it was such a refreshing drink.”
From this day the Vespa Martini was born and Fleming went on to use that style of preparing the drink in his hit 007 novels. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So how exactly did Fleming come to frequent the Jamaica Inn? Before the Morrow family purchased the property, the former owner was wartime friends with the likes of Roald Dahl, Winston Churchill and Fleming, and extended an invitation to vacation at the resort.
“Ian Fleming stayed numerous times. He fell in love with Jamaica and stayed while he was looking for somewhere to build a house. Eventually he did, GoldenEye, where he wrote all the novels, but this still remained their watering hole,” he said. “They came here and spent many boozy evenings. This was their hangout and our connection to that era is still very obvious.”
Accommodations at Jamaica Inn range from suites to two-bedroom cottages and beach bungalows, set on eight acres with a 700-foot private beach.
“We’re one of the original boutique properties in Jamaica. We’re a very intimate beach resort, only 55 keys,” he says. “It’s old world charm Jamaica.”
Considering the vast amount of space, Mais says the resort was naturally designed for social distancing.
“We’ve been socially distancing for 60 years,” he says, noting that the hotel is ahead of the curve in terms of the vaccination rate of staff. “So it’s no real challenge for us.”
The family-owned property remains no stranger to hosting notable guests, with Natalie Portman, Meghan Markle, Marilyn Monroe and Kate Winslet being a snippet of some of the other celebrities who have stayed over the years.
“If only the walls could talk,” he jokes. “We’ve had quite a few celebrities. Back in the day one of our most well known celebrity guests was of course Marilyn Monroe, she was here during one of her honeymoons to Arthur Miller.”
More recently, Meghan Markle’s first wedding was held at the property, and a photo from the festivities can be found on display next to other well known guests.
“That was a fantastic, fun little wedding,” he says. “That was held right here at Jamaica Inn, a beach wedding. Very fun and laid-back.”
Mais points out that the resort is extremely active with the travel trade and 15% of all business comes from Canada.
“During the last 20 months with no Canadian guests it was very sad for us,” he says. “We love our Canadians and again the trade there is very important. It’s a very big part of our business.”
He suggests that the reason why the trade is important is because of the style of the hotel, which as a non all-inclusive hotel is attracting “a very small section of the market because of our boutique high-end nature. Those types of clientele have travel agents that they book travel with so we maintain that very strong relationship.”
There’s no bad view on the site, but one of the most remarkable options to stay is the two storey cottage, which has its own infinity plunge pool overlooking the ocean. Notably, while there is WiFi, there are no TVs in the rooms — but why would you need one? This is truly a place to relax and unwind.
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