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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vesper Martini will help you Bond with Skyfall

You can also mix Vespers by the pitcher,
but they will be stirred, not shaken.

The new James Bond film, Skyfall, opens this week-end.  Roger Ebert thinks it’s the best Bond in years, so it should be a good one.  A new James Bond film always brings attention to Bond’s hard-drinking life-style, and Bond’s drink of choice, the Vesper Martini, is named after James Bond’s girl in Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd.  Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was a noted bon vivant as well as a famous author.  According to cocktail legend, Fleming asked noted bartender Gilberto Preti at Duke’s Hotel, London, to design the Vesper in sixty years ago.  In the book, Bond orders his Martini and then tells the bartender exactly how to mix it: “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.”  Thus contributing to the great Martini shaking vs. stirring controversy without ever uttering the phrase “shaken, not stirred”.  The cocktail has also been credited to Fleming’s friend Ivar Bryce.

Preti’s recipe is an interesting one when you consider why the vodka is in there at all.  Vodka is not a particularly strong flavored liquor, and during the length of Bond’s literary adventures Martinis made with Vodka (yes, they’re not really Martinis) slightly outnumber Martinis made with Gin (yes, I know, “made with Gin” is redundant).  The Vodka can only be there to tone down the taste of the Gin to bring out the flavor of the Lillet.  Kina Lillet, has a distinctive orange-based flavor that differs from the Vermouth used in a Martini, and changes the character of the drink a bit.  There are two ways to create a pretty good approximation of the original Vesper, even though Kina Lillet hasn’t been made for over 20 years.  It turns out that Kina is another name for quinine.  So adding two dashes of Angostura Bitters to the mix will move the flavor a little closer to what James Bond actually was drinking.  The second way is to use Cocchi Apertivo Americano, the closest thing to Kina Lillet that is currently available in many markets, and which is, sadly, not available in Utah.

As for the Gin, lately I’ve been enjoying my Vespers with Plymouth Gin.  Give it a try if you have any around and let me know what you think.  Next, using a half-ounce as a “measure” is recommended.  Using an ounce will result in a cocktail that is a solid double, a pretty stiff drink that will probably have warmed up a bit by the time you finish.  Better to start with a smaller cocktail, and then have a fresh, ice-cold one later if you want more.  Finally, if you will be driving to see Skyfall, plan on enjoying your Vesper when you arrive back home.

Vesper Martini
  • 1 ½ oz Plymouth Gin (or premium gin of choice)
  • ½ oz Ketel One Vodka
  • ¼ oz Cocchi Apertivo Americano (or Lillet Blanc with Angostura)

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass half full of ice.  Stir very well until ice cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Twist a lemon twist over the glass to express the oils, rub it around the rim, and then drop it in or drape it gracefully over the edge of the glass.  (An olive in place of the twist is optional, but then it won’t be a Vesper.)   Straighten your bow-tie (you are wearing your tux, aren’t you?) and enjoy.

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