Every year when the Oscar nominations are announced, I immediately map out a movie-going schedule in an attempt to see as many of the nominated films as I can in the weeks before the awards ceremony. Alissa is my frequent movie buddy, but with all of these particularly heavy-duty films nominated this year, we just weren’t in the mood for a somber evening, which is how we ended up at the James Bond movie. Even though we were at “Skyfall” on its opening day back in November, we both felt compelled to see it on the big screen once more, and our second viewing certainly did not disappoint. (May we just talk about how inspiring Daniel Craig is?! Wow.) It only seemed natural to follow our movie-going outing with a proper Vesper, the signature James Bond martini.
Basically, the Vesper is a mostly-gin martini, with a touch of vodka for balance and orange-scented Lillet in place of the traditional vermouth. In “Casino Royale”, Agent 007 orders a dry martini right before a dramatic high-stakes poker game, but then he changes his mind: “Three parts 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?” I always appreciate attention to detail in all things, and this drink is no exception.
James Bond, quite pleased with his creation, names this cocktail after Vesper Lynd, his love interest in “Casino Royale”. “Because of the bitter aftertaste?” she asks him. “No, because once you have tasted it, you won’t want anything else.” I was always a classic martini girl myself, but now that I’ve started drinking Vespers on a regular basis, that is what I crave. Bond was right.
My good friend Hannah often joins Alissa and me for these vesper cocktail evenings, so much so that we’ve started referring to ourselves as The Vesper Girls. Luckily for us, one of the best Vespers is made right in the neighborhood at Ouest, where they really know what they’re doing behind that bar. Not only do they make an incredible classic martini, the second drink on their cocktail menu is actually listed as A Proper Vesper. But for those nights when we can’t make it to Ouest, it’s good knowing that we can take matters into our own hands and shake up an excellent Vesper ourselves. And now you can too.
One Year Ago: Crispy Kale Chips With Smoked Paprika
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Four Years Ago: Louise's Perfect Martini
A PROPER VESPER
Inspired by James Bond in “Casino Royale”.
I've adjusted James Bond's proportions a bit to suit my taste. The original recipe calls for Gordon’s gin, and I know that Bond usually drank Smirnoff or Stoli vodka, whether that was just for product placement purposes or in the spirit of the times. I usually use Tanqueray or Bombay gin, and I like to make it with Stoli when I have it on hand (which I did not this time). Kina Lillet, reformulated in the mid-80s and now known as Lillet Blanc, is a beguiling blend of fortified wine and orange liqueurs. The original Kina Lillet contained quinine, which the new Lillet Blanc does not, so I add a dash of bitters to make the drink more like the original. I serve these in small martini glasses so that the cocktail is icy-cold down to the very last drop.
For each drink:
1-½ ounces dry gin
½ ounce vodka
½ ounce Lillet Blanc
A few dashes of bitters, optional
A thin twist of lemon peel
Chill a martini glass by filling it with ice and water as you prepare the drink.
Fill a cocktail shaker with several ice cubes. Add the gin, vodka, Lillet blanc and the bitters, if using. Cover the shaker and shake vigorously until the drink is very cold, about 30 shakes.
Discard the ice water from the martini glass. Rub the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and drop into the bottom. Strain the Vesper into the prepared glass and serve immediately.