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Monday, December 22, 2008

Vesper: The James Bond Martini

We all know, or think we know, that James Bond drinks dry vodka martinis: shaken, not stirred. (Who the hell stirs their martinis these days, anyway?) Then, in the most recent movie, Quantum of Solace, the layman is introduced to a new drink. While flying across the Atlantic on a private plane, Bond pounds six, yes six, martini-looking drinks. And in one of the most awkward moments of that movie, Bond can't even articulate what he's drinking, so he leaves it to the bartender to give us the recipe: 3 measures Gordon's gin, 1 measure vodka, and 1/2 measure Lillet Blanc.

Now, from what I understand, 1 measure equals 1.5 ounces, or one shot. In other words, Bond had drunk 27 shots of alcohol during the flight. Yowzers.

It is my duty as a gin blogger to try to recreate this cocktail, and try it out (although in much smaller quantities). So I did. Turns out that the original recipe for the cocktail comes from Ian Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale. In it, Bond goes into a bar and orders a "dry martini. One, in a deep champagne goblet." Then he reconsiders and says:
Just a moment. 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?'
Got it. Except no one makes Kina Lillet anymore, which was a wine based liquor with a heavy dose of quinine (the stuff that makes tonic water bitter). In the 1930s, the name was changed to Lillet Blanc, and in the 1980s, the quinine content was reduced. Today, Lillet Blanc is not easy to find, but I was able to order a bottle from Paonia's 133 Liquor; and I picked another bottle up at Corks in Montrose. It's a bit like vermouth, truth be told, but sweeter.

Then, I found a beautiful and seductive German spy (Wendy, my wife) to help me mix up and quaff a batch. We usually drink Bombay Sapphire, so we used that in the place of Gordon's. Absolut was the vodka. And Lillet Blanc. The big slice of lemon peel is crucial.

The verdict: Very nice. In spite of the orange hue to the Lillet Blanc, the resulting cocktail was clean and clear. So was the flavor -- the addition of a bit of vodka mellows the stronger gin flavors, which is not a bad thing. And by the last few sips, the lemon peel flavor has nicely infused itself into the alcohol.

Why such a big drink?

'Gosh that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.

Bond laughed. 'When I'm ... er ... concentrating.' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'
Later, he met the lovely Vesper, and thus, the name.

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