The Vesper

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An interesting creation, first because it is shaken, and second because it is a martini that embodies both gin and vodka, this cocktail is a unique twist to say the least, thanks mainly in part to the addition of Lillet Blanc.


“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “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 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 in Casino Royale (1953)
James Bond.  The famous, fictional proponent of “shaken not stirred” martinis who was created by Ian Fleming in 1952 while at his Jamaican estate, Goldeneye (DeGroff 109).  Well, being a fictional character, he has little weight to the bartender community, but because people adopt pseudo-cultural suggestions from mass media, consumption patterns will change and be affected.  As such, this combined with clever marketing, would help to create the change in how a mass majority of people would perceive and drink cocktails such as the Martini.  Just remember, normally a drink is shaken if it contains things outside of alcohol, otherwise it is most probably stirred.  Slightly later in the novel, Casino Royale (1953), Bond will meet another agent named Vesper, who will become the catalyst that launches him into naming his drink as such. 

Why did “shaken not stirred,” come into play?  As Dale DeGroff notes, the dozen or so Bond books that Fleming wrote featured Bond ordering a vodka martini (Ibid).  These books would become very popular movies.  John Martin, who worked for Smirnoff and helped bring it to the United States, who was also behind the genius idea of the Moscow Mule, convinced Albert Broccoli to include a product placement in the films through shortening the ordering sequence for a Bond martini to “Vodka, shaken not stirred,” and have Smirnoff’s vodka appear on the screen with the actors (Ibid).  As DeGroff notes, this helped launch vodka into the successful market role it currently enjoys today which would be expected of any product placement.

In reality, the drink was most likely made by Gilberto Preti, who had to have created the cocktail sometime in 1950, and was the local bartender for Fleming (Haigh 278).  However, Preti seems to have begun bartending in London around 1960, which means it is unlikely he is the true progenitor of this libation.  This is the popular theory, and the one which DeGroff adheres to as well.  William Hamilton of the New York Times believes that a neighbor of Fleming’s, Ivor Bryce, may have created the drink (Ibid).
 

Kina Lillet, which no longer exists in the original form, was created originally in the nineteenth century, near Bordeaux, France (DeGroff 109).  The ingredient Kina Lillet no longer exists.  It has changed its’ name to Lillet, and there are two versions: the one which you should be using in this drink is Lillet Blanc (Haigh 277).  Lillet is a type of fortified wine, similar to vermouth, but flavored differently.  Other types of fortified wines include port, sherry or Dubonnet.  However, Lillet is different than others now than when it was originally produced, since in 1985 Lillet Freres was purchased and changed to the Lillet Company, and there was a reduction of quinine in the drink (Ibid).  As such, the drink would taste different, mostly less bitter since there is less quinine in the drink (quinine is found in tonic water).  The French aperitif is a mixture of 85% wine and citrus liqueurs composed various varieties of orange fruits (Wikipedia).

Garnish wise, the drink is traditionally made with a lemon twist.  This does work well, and provides a sort of contrasting, refreshing flavor against the orange flavors of the Lillet Blanc.  However, Dale DeGroff alters the garnish, which highlights the orange flavor of the drink (DeGroff 109).  It provides a slightly different aroma, and really does bring out the flavors.  However, I have tried it with flamed orange peel, which works as well, and provides a contrasting, yet familiar flavor, as would the orange flavor.

Since Lillet has changed, Wondrich notes that you can change the flavors to more closely match the original, by adding in less than or equal to 1/8th a teaspoon of quinine powder, or a few dashes of bitters (Wondrich).
 

Vesper:

3 ounces dry gin
1 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce Kina Lillet (Lillet Blanc)

Shake together the ingredients in an iced cocktail shaker, straining into a cocktail glass, and garnish with either an orange or lemon peel. 

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DeGroff, Dale. 2008. The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

Haigh, Ted.  2009.  Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond.  Beverly, Massachusetts: Quarry Books.

Hamilton, William.  2004.  Shaken and Stirred: Through the Martini Glass and Other Drinking Adventures.  New York: HarperCollins Books.

Wikipedia contributors. “Lillet.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillet (accessed March 22, 2010).
–. “Vesper (cocktail).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_of_the_dog (accessed March 22, 2010).

Wondrich, David.  “James Bond Walks Into a Bar….”   Esquire Magazine. http://www.esquire.com/features/food-drink/ESQ1106DRINKS_84  (accessed March 22, 2010)