Vespas, Vespers, and Vesper martinis, oh my!
Get ready all you bartenders out there, both professional and amateur, because here come the 007 enthusiasts! With the release of the new James Bond movie, “No Time to Die” (the 27th overall) folks will be bellying up to bars everywhere asking for: Vespas, Vespers, and Vesper martinis. [see last Sunday’s Barfly for the inside scoop When customers leave you shaken and stirred.] The first term is a European motorbike/scooter, the second term is either a canonical hour, or a ridiculously expensive cognac, and the third term is more or less correct.
It all started with the first James Bond book “Casino Royale” (written by Ian Fleming) and released in 1953. In Chapter 7 the Vesper is born:
“A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’ …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?”
The Vesper gets its name in the next chapter when Bond learns of the first Bond girl’s unique name: Vesper Lynd.
“The Vesper,” he said. It sounds perfect and its very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will be drunk all over the world.”
It didn’t really turn out that way, exactly, because Bond became most famous for his vodka martini, first made for him twice in the first Bond film “Dr. No” (released in 1962). “Dr. No” had been Fleming’s sixth Bond novel (released in 1958) and due to contractual wrangling’s “Casino Royale” wouldn’t be made into a serious Bond film until 2006’s Daniel Craig version (although it was adapted as a classic 60’s spoof in 1967, starring Orson Welles, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen). Bond wouldn’t order a martini himself until 1964’s “Goldfinger.” But let’s focus on Bond’s first movie martini.
“One medium dry vodka martini mixed like you said, sir, but not stirred,” says the waiter in Bond’s hotel room. Later Dr. No himself announces the very same drink.
Ironically, neither of the drinks in the film are correct. The first one is clear and comes with a very visible lime peel (served in a rocks glass) and the second is also clear and is served in a type of coupe glass. It’s not the “mixed” part that is the problem. And it’s not the glass. It’s the drink. A “medium dry” martini is actually a combination of liquor, (usually gin) and both dry and sweet vermouth (as clearly listed in Old Mr. Boston’s Guides from 1953 all the way to 1988). Which of course would create a very reddish hued drink. A drink that never made it onto film. Because when Bond finally does order his own martini in 1964, he omits the “medium” part.
If one were to order a “medium dry” martini today, the most likely drink one would receive is a martini with a good sized dollop of dry vermouth. Almost no bartender anywhere would add sweet vermouth, which is doubly ironic, considering the movies (and the books), and the fact that there are many delicious local new vermouths on the market. Which if combined, or “mixed,” will make Bond’s original medium dry vodka martini especially delicious.
With that thought in mind we have taken the liberty of assembling two Bond martini recipes, in order to satisfy all the enthusiasts out there, all localized, of course, for your consumption.
1 ounce Hanson of Sonoma Organic vodka
1 ounce Griffo gin (Petaluma)
1 ounce Momenpop orange vermouth (Napa)*
¼ ounce Kina L‘Aéro d’Or (imported by Petaluma’s Tempus Fugit)*
1 large lemon peel
1 deep champagne goblet
Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake (or mix) until ice cold. Strain into the chilled champagne goblet and garnish with lemon peel.
*Kina Lillet was the original product and was a more bitter antique form of Lillet, an aromatized French wine: a combination of Kina L’Aéro d’Or and Momenpop’s orange vermouth best approximates the original flavor and texture. Orange bitters (such as Novato’s King Floyd’s) can also be substituted for the Kina L’Aérod’Or, but in that case use just a dash.
Medium Dry Vodka Martini
2 ounces Square One Vodka
½ ounce Lo-Fi sweet vermouth*
½ ounce Vya “whisper” dry Vermouth
1 lime zest
1 lemon zest
Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until ice cold. Strain into either a chilled “rocks” glass, or a chilled champagne coupe.
Garnish with both lime and lemon zests (just to be sure) and then scan the room for Honey Rider or Sylvia Trench, recognizing that the dry martini would only come along with Pussy Galore in 1964’s “Goldfinger.”
*Since Lo-Fi creates a clear un-colored form of sweet vermouth we can finally get that James Bond “clear” medium dry vodka martini, nearly 60 years after the original movie came out.