Sunday, November 16, 2008

Drink of the Moment: The Vesper

"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?"

If there's an author this side of Earnest Hemingway who really knew his liquor, it was Ian Flemming, the creator of secret agent James Bond. In honor of the release of Quantum of Solace, I bring you the drink Flemming created through 007, The Vesper.

The Vesper was introduced in Flemming's 1953 novel, Casino Royal. During a high stakes game of Baccarat. Bond invents the drink when asked if he'd like a drink from the bar. When Felix Lighter, one of the other players comments on the drink, Bond says this.
"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."

He ends up naming it in honor of Vesper Lynd, the double agent for the Soviets that he's bedding at this time.

As you can read above, the drink involves Gin, Vodka, and Kina Lillet. However, if you want to make an accurate Vesper, you must keep in mind that this recipe was devised in 1953, when men were men, and alcohol was strong. Gordon's Gin has been cut down in proof, and most vodkas currently sold are 80 proof. Kina Lillet isn't made anymore. They replaced it with Lillet Blanc, which has no quinine in it, so it lacks any real bite to it.

To get around these issues, there are several quick fixes. Many modern gins maintain the 94 proof of 50's Gordon's. 100 proof vodka is easy to find. A dash of quinine powder turns a Lillet Blanc back into Kina Lillet. The quinine powder might be difficult to find, so if you can't get your hands on it, substitute in 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters.

You wind up with 3 oz 94 proof gin, 1 oz 100 proof vodka, 1/2 oz of Lillet Blanc, and a dash of Quinine Powder (or two dashed bitters). Shake until cold, then strain into a Cocktail glass, or a deep champagne goblet if you want to be true to Bond. Garnish with a long thin lemon peel. Take a sip, and picture yourself heads up with Le Chiffre.

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