Great stories are not defined by heroes but the villains they oppose. James Bond had SPECTRE, while cocktails enthusiasts have the Martini, James Bond’s most famous choice of drink. It’s remarkable the antagonistic relationship a lot of drinkers have with the Martini, particularly the way 007 prepares it: adding in vodka (somewhere in the afterlife, Winston Churchill is very disappointed) and shaking instead of stirring.
Part of this came down to Ian Fleming’s personal preferences, which he used to define Bond more than we realize (Bond even had Fleming’s real-life golf handicap). British gin has always tended to be very dry, so Fleming added in vodka (Russian, preferably) to smooth out the flavor. He also wrote in a plot relevant reason for Bond having his martinis shaken; it would break up any poisons someone might try to sneak into his drink. Clever, but considering how many drinks Bond downs in the average Fleming novel (200-plus alcohol units in “You Only Live Twice” alone), he’s at higher risk of liver failure than poisoning from an enemy agent.
Easily the most famous Martini Bond downs is The Vesper, named in honor of his lost love Vesper Lynd in the first Bond novel “Casino Royale.” The recipe is so well known to hardcore Bond fans they can quote it from memory: Three measures of Gordon’s [gin], one of vodka. Half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel. The 2006 film with Daniel Craig even quotes this recipe verbatim, which creates a slight anachronism as Kina Lillet is no longer available.
Lillet Blanc, a blonde wine-based aperitif, is still readily available and used in Vespers today, but the Kina formulation was a quinine mixture that gave a very specific flavor. This makes “original” Vespers as Fleming had conceived them technically impossible to make. For our recipe though we’ll be using Interrobang, a locally made Vermouth fortified with Clear Creek Brandy.
For gin we chose Aria, one of Portland’s drier gins. We paired it with Portland Potato Vodka as a nod to Fleming’s preference for Russian vodkas. We were still insistent on stirring rather than shaking though. The Portland Pour doesn’t have superstitions of “bruising” the gin, but we still weren’t interested in weakening the strength of the drink by chipping the ice. The bartender seemed to agree with us when he took our order, nodding his silent approval.
Thanks to the Interrobang and the lemon peel, the Vesper has a clear, crisp flavor that hits you right from the first sip. Drink slowly and savor, and unlike Bond, keep it to one. You don’t want to reach Archer levels of alcohol intake.
3 measures of Aria Dry London Gin
1 measure of Portland Potato Vodka
1/2 measure of Interrobang White Vermouth No. 73
Stir or shake in a cocktail shaker with ice (but seriously, stir)
Serve with a thin slice of lemon
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