My boyfriend, S, is a very rational, intelligent and all-round wonderful man. He also has a bit of a thing for James Bond. I guess that’s not unusual. Most boys appear to dream of driving around in an Astin Martin (who can blame them), wearing gorgeous suits, behaving badly, drinking strong drinks and playing with fancy toys. And women. And making horrendous puns and double entendres. I’m less of a fan of the smarmy, Pierce Brosnan Bond, but even I can admit the newest member of the Bond fraternity is pretty dreamy. And the movies aren’t bad either.
Casino Royale was James Fleming’s first Bond novel, and (you may recall), Daniel Craig’s debut as Bond in 2006. It is the highest grossing James Bond movie of all time, according to Wikipedia.
The Vesper is a cocktail that appears in both book and movie:
“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“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?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
“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.”
– Ian Fleming, Casino Royale
And then there’s the scene in the movie where Bond orders the drink at the poker game:
S has been collecting the various components in order to recreate what would have been the original Vesper experience (need I say, a fair amount of experimenting has occurred). There are a few problems though:
1) Kina Lillet is no longer manufactured. Lillet Blanc, an aperitif wine from France (quite hard to obtain where we live), isn’t as bitter as the original despite being delicious in it’s own right.
2) The gin and vodka used in the original had a higher proof than can be easily obtained commercially in Australia.
3) We have looked high and low for champagne goblets, but apart from some rather expensive crystal ones in antique stores, we can’t find any.
The first two problems we solved a while ago. Instead of Lillet, S found some Cocchi Americano on one of his overseas academic junkets, and also discovered that you can get higher proof Gordon’s gin and Smirnoff vodka through the duty free stores at the airport.
But until yesterday, we were missing the requisite champagne goblet/saucer. The shape is said to have been inspired by Marie Antoinette’s bosoms (which appear to have been round and quite small, it would seem), and was hardly going to influence the taste of the final beverage. But ever in search of historical fidelity, we had to have the right glass.
On a whim, during a shopping expedition in town, we popped into Wheel & Barrow for a browse and found exactly what we’ve been looking for.
And so, having ticked off the last component on the list we had a celebratory Vesper evening.
And what celebratory Vesper evening is complete without a few props…
A bit of a race to get all the ingredients into the shaker and then out again into chilled glasses before melting too much ice.
3 measures Gordon’s (95-proof)
1 measure Vodka (100-proof)
1/2 measure Cocchi Americano
Shake over ice
Serve in champagne goblet
Garnish with thin slice of lemon peel.
The drink has a tinge of yellow to it, courtesy of the Cocchi Americano.
And the result?
A drink that’s so dry it evaporates the second it hits your tongue. Keep in mind, this is a drink for those who eschew sweetness for a more adult palate (or who have singed their palate to oblivion in the past perhaps..). The Cocchi Americano gives it that sought-after bitterness, the overproof Gordons and Smirnoff bring the kick of a mule, and the lemon makes it look pretty. All in all, it’s enough to make you feel like taking over where NASA left off.
It’s definitely enjoyable, particularly if you like efficiency in your cocktails – this one will last all evening.
I remarked to S after the first couple of sips, “My, that certainly gives you a warm glow on the inside!”
To which he replied: “That’s your liver dying.”