Discerning Drinking, Chapter Eighteen.

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Originally posted 11th November 2012

I am in the grip of Bonditis, the disease that afflicts lovers of 007 whenever a new film is released.  Since being overwhelmed to the point of tears (yes, I know…) when I saw Skyfall the other night, my week relapsed into a childlike state akin to the extended kittenhood they say a cat lives in once it’s domesticated.  I blew out a party on Friday night, simply to switch on the PS3 and wreak havoc on Metal Gear Solid all evening.  Yesterday, Saturday, I should have cracked on with a little homework concerning some training prep I have going on at the moment.  Instead, I was running around the Island-State of Panau, playing Rico Rodriguez; the protagonist of Just Cause 2.

A boy can dream, can he not?

Yesterday was spent at home as it is the last week before payday and frankly, I am brassic.  Luckily, a bottle of Lillet blanc – a zesty, slightly orangey French aperitif – costs only fourteen quid online and once it arrived on my doorstep the other day, I have been busting to try the only Martini worth writing about – the Vesper.  Seeing as the X Factor now requires hard liquor to tolerate, Saturday night seemed like the night…

The Vesper is named for Bond’s squeeze in Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd.  The character – and to some extent, the drink – were made a lot more famous by the 2006 film, where the dialogue from the novel regarding the drink was revisited;

A dry martini.  One.  In a deep champagne goblet

Oui monsieur

Just a moment.  Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet.  Shake it 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.

Later, the barman suggests grain vodka rather than a potato-based variety, Bond mulls over a name and the Vesper was born.  It is one of the lesser-mentioned drinks in the Bond universe, with most martinis referred to simply with the well-known catchphrase “shaken, not stirred

Traditionally, shaking a Martini is not the done thing; purists suggest that it ‘bruises’ the gin; essentially giving it a bitter(er) taste than a gentle stir in a can.  Fleming* suggests that a Vesper is better-prepared by shaking, for two reasons;

  1. It combines the two distinct spirits of gin and vodka together in a more complete fashion
  2. The Vesper is required to be ice-cold; a vigorous shake over ice is a more effective than stirring

Of course, there are other reasons to shake; shaking aerates the drink and dilutes it a little, making this dry cocktail silky smooth.  Wikipedia also suggests that shaken cocktails reduce the risk of cardio-vascular cock ups.  Seriously, look it up.  Finally, using a cocktail shaker in the manner intended is freaking awesome.  It’s cooler than the Fonz.

So, after my weekly dose of Lois on Take Me Out, and as Chris from the X Factor murdered I’m Still Standing by Elton John, I prepared a round of Vespers;

Methodology

  • 3 shots Gin (I used Tanqueray No. 10)
  • 1 shot Vodka (Absolut London)
  • 0.5 shot Lillet blanc

(Of course, the recipe calls for a twist of lemon, but the only fruit I have in the house at present are some mouldy blueberries and a jam doughnut)

I chilled the martini glasses well beforehand and set to work, pouring everything into a shaker and giving it a vigorous over-arming in order to drown out Jahmene Douglas before fine straining into the chilled martini glasses.

Tasting Notes

The Vesper is dry, dry, dry, but for me, somehow packs a lot more flavour than a traditional Dry Martini.  The combination of base spirits seem are akin to an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, creating a well-balanced and smooth drink that belies the perception of tastelessness.  The Lillet – well, I’ll be honest and say that I am unsure I would have known the difference if I had used an off-the-shelf vermouth – but the taste is a little sweeter, perhaps due to the citrusy nature of the digestif.  As a fully-fledged Moodivore, to me, dry cocktails are like eggs and olives – I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy them – but the Vesper seems to break the barrier.

In the words of Daniel Craig;

You know, that’s not half bad

Like the X Factor, I guess.

The original Vesper is attributed to Fleming himself, rather than a work of fiction.  It is said that Fleming enjoyed Martinis shaken by a German bartender called Hans Schröder.  An alternative history is it was made for Fleming at the Duke’s Hotel in London; created by bartender Gilberto Preti.

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