This one is a weird choice, for certain. First off, I don’t particularly care for this entire class of drinks and this version breaks the rules of bartending, so I feel a bit weird about it. It has been on my list for a while, a thing to try, but way down that list. I did not know what to make today till a random memory from eighth grade chose for me. So, join me as we stand and make, the Vesper Martini.
Yep, the classic James Bond martini. The drink that coined the phrase, “Shaken, not stirred” in contradiction of the rules, or are they more guidelines, of bartending and mixology. If you don’t know, in most cases you shake things with dairy or citrus juice in them and you stir things that don’t, now you know. So, every time you see someone order a martini, shaken, you can immediately judge them, and if you watch carefully, you can usually see the bartender roll their eyes slightly as they pass their judgement. I don’t usually like martinis anyway, not that they are bad, there are just so many more interesting things to do with the alcohol. That said, Daniel Craig makes ordering one and drinking one look smooth as hell, but hey, that is his job. I mean, honestly, what doesn’t he make look smooth as hell? He even made those ridiculous boy shorts work. So let’s make this one and see what makes it special.
This drink comes from the first Bond novel, Casino Royale in 1953, when Bond, James Bond, orders, “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?” Simple as can be right? Well, not so much. Gordon’s has changed their recipe since the 50’s and Kina Lillet is no longer made, so this recipe uses some modern options to try to approximate the flavor. Interestingly, Bond wouldn’t actually, say, “Shaken, not stirred” until three years later in Diamonds are Forever.
Anyway, grab your tins and pop in 3 ounces of a nice gin, I went with New Amsterdam Statusphere, Original. I like the way that the juniper is pushed down in their blend. Add 1 ounce of Vodka, I chose that French Monkey Head, because I had it, which makes me realize I need to get some more interesting vodka, but on the flip side, vodka’s whole thing is that it is neutral, so perhaps one like this that brings very little flavor is the best option. 1/2 an ounce of dry Vermouth next, which will help to approximate Kina Lillet, to get us a little closer I added one drop of 18-21 Bitter Clementine Citrate. Now we shake, with ice, of course, contrary to the accepted norms. That’s cool, maybe we need to break the rules a little more often. So give it a good shake, this is all alcohol, and some dilution will help and if there is one thing I know about the martini, it is that it should be as cold a humanly possible. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, express a little lemon oil above the glass and add a single beautiful thin slice of lemon peel.
It is surprisingly good, coming from a known martini detractor. It is certainly strong, which is good for this day, super refreshing. I don’t want one everyday, but this may be my new go to when it comes to martinis. It is certainly a good drink to raise in the memory of a friend today. Which, weirdly, is why am I thinking about James Bond. One of my best friends from middle school, Ian, passed away on the 4th of July and his funeral was today. Through modern technology I was able to view the beautiful service from my office. It was wonderful to hear so many of the old stories, so many things I had forgotten and some things I did not know about him. Like most folks from middle school, we had grown apart and only reconnected in the last decade or so through facebook. He was one of a kind in every way, his story has been told by so many people so much better than I ever could, but he was truly special. By the time we became friends he had already overcome more difficulties than most people will face in life. Today, I could not help but laugh as they told stories of him on the School Safety Patrol, we were on together. I had forgotten about him chasing parents down and blocking traffic with his motorized scooter chair. Many times over the years, I would think back and laugh about his optimism. We spent a lot of time playing or more likely talking about Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games. I went to his house and he came to mine. He opened my eyes to how differences in ability were just that, differences, like we all have. He taught me perspective, without even trying.
So, today as I was thinking about time spent on Safety Patrol, or the time he ran over my big toe evacuating when Mr. Almeroth filled the lab with purple smoke or talking about games in the library, I suddenly remembered “James Bond 007: Role-Playing In Her Majesty’s Secret Service“. I don’t recall if we ever actually played it, but I do remember going through the Q Manual, endlessly. Arguing about which cars and which guns and which gadgets were the coolest. Kinda funny, but many of my best memories of Ian involved arguing, good-naturedly over silly things. He went on to do amazing things with his life, truly, he changed so many lives with his work, just google “Ian’s Law“ if you want to scratch the surface, but to me he will always be speeding down the halls, with a laugh and a smile showing us a better way. So, tonight I raise my martini, shaken not stirred, to the memory of a childhood friend and who we were. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.