In chapter 7 of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale James Bond orders a martini…
“A dry martini," Bond 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?"
"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
"Gosh, that's certainly a drink," said Leiter.
Bond laughed. "When I'm...er...concentrating," he explained, "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."
In the next chapter, "Pink Lights and Champagne", Bond names it the Vesper. At the time of his first introduction to the beautiful Vesper Lynd.
Now, I’ll be honest, I was never a big James Bond fan. That is until I saw Daniel Craig as James Bond...hell YES, I’m a James Bond fan!
So, I didn’t need to be talked into taking The Vesper for a spin.
My drink of choice has always been a gin martini – extra dry. Extra dry to me means no vermouth at all, I replace it with spring water. Add a little squeeze of lemon and I’m good to go. I like the taste of gin and I have a large collection of gins and they all have subtle differences in flavor. To me, dry vermouth overpowers most gins and all I can taste is the vermouth.
The Kina Lillet Bond speaks of can be found today labeled as White or Blanc Lillet. It's a brand of dry vermouth made in France since the late 1800's that is often referred to as "the apèritif of Bordeaux". It’s something I discovered when I started making the 20th Century and it’s not like any other vermouth.
So, it’s no surprise that the Vesper appealed to me. It’s gin-based, it contains Lillet Blanc instead of dry vermouth, and there aren’t any olives (I don’t like olives).
I just had to try it. It's a terrific drink and the Vesper has become my go-to martini. I must be honest though, I’ve never tried Gorden’s, but I’ve made this with a lot of other gins and I’ve never been disappointed. Plymouth, Hamani, and No. 3 are some of my current favorites.
Mix It Up
Turn It Up
I have to tell you, Paul’s playlist for this drink is stellar. He played it for me and I just loved his choices.
He starts out with one of my favorite tunes of all time – Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers. This song kicks ass and from the opening lick, I’m gripped every time.
There’s a man who leads a life of danger
James Bond is part of Her Majesty’s Secret Service so Rain King by Counting Crows is next…
I belong in the service of the queen
Being a spy is all about lies, right? So, how about a little Fleetwood Mac Little Lies.
Tell me, tell me, tell me lies
Paul added Double Life by the Cars as the next tune. This isn’t one I was familiar with but it’s a perfect fit here.
It takes a fast car lady
Ok, ok…this next one might seem a little obvious. But come on…it’s an awesome tune and it was written for James Bond! Paul McCartney & Wings Live and Let Die.
What does it matter to ya
To round it all out, the very last tune on the Beatles’ Abbey Road, at just 29 seconds Her Majesty, is by far the shortest tune on all of our playlists.
Am I right? It’s a great playlist! So, make the Vesper, sit back and turn up the tunes!
Johanna & Paul
The weather’s warming up and we’re diving into summer cocktails and the Mojito popped into my head this week.
The Mojito has a disputed history but most people agree that it was born on the island of Cuba and is one of the nation's oldest cocktails. One story traces the Mojito to a similar 16th century drink known as "El Draque", after Sir Francis Drake. Some historians contend that African slaves who worked in the Cuban sugar cane fields during the 19th century were instrumental in the cocktail's origin.
Either way, in later years, the Mojito was routinely presented as a favorite drink of author Ernest Hemingway.
A mojito consists of five ingredients: white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and mint. Many hotels in Havana also add Angostura bitters to cut the sweetness of the drink and many bars today in Havana use lemon juice rather than fresh lime.
The Old Fashioned is often cited as being the original cocktail.
The first use of the name "Old Fashioned" for a Bourbon whiskey cocktail was said to have been at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen's club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky. The recipe was said to have been invented by a bartender at that club in honor of Colonel James E. Pepper, a prominent bourbon distiller, who brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City.
With its conception rooted in the city's history, in 2015 the city of Louisville named the Old Fashioned as its official cocktail. Each year, during the first two weeks of June, Louisville celebrates "Old Fashioned Fortnight" which encompasses bourbon events, cocktail specials and National Bourbon Day which is always celebrated on June 14.
With that history in mind we present our favorite version of this oh-so tasty and oh-so classic cocktail.
Aviation was created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, in the early twentieth century. The first published recipe for the drink appeared in Ensslin's 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks.
Thanks to Prohibition, Aviation was all but forgotten about given the scarcity of liquers. Let’s be honest, during prohibition, it was all about getting your hands on the hooch, forget those fancy liquers. In fact, in 1930, Harry Craddock's influential Savoy Cocktail Book omitted the crème de violette all together.
Aviation eventually disappeared from the US in the 1960s. It wasn’t until 2007 that it was finally brought back into the American market.
Aviation is a beautiful, well crafted, balanced and complex cocktail that tastes different from almost everything else we’ve ever tasted.
The Monte Carlo is a variation of both the classic Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.
Max Seaman is the general manager of The Varnish in Los Angeles describes the history of the Monte Carlo this way:
"There is no cocktail more classic than an Old Fashioned. In fact, when it was created, it was known simply as a ‘cocktail’ — liquor, sugar and bitters, maybe with some ice and a twist if you were wealthy. As the drink became popular it spawned many variations. So, if you walked into a bar in the 19th century and wanted simply liquor, sugar and bitters, you would order an ‘old fashioned cocktail.’
After the repeal of Prohibition, there was a rush to publish and archive the recipes for many of the golden-age drinks. The recipe for a Monte Carlo was published in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury in 1948, but the recipe may be older. It is a very simple variation on a rye Old Fashioned with Benedictine liqueur used to sweeten the drink in place of sugar. Benedictine is an amazing herbal liqueur said to have been created by Norman monks; it adds layers of herb and spice to the woody nature of the rye whiskey.”
I used to paint furniture as a hobby.
Now that I do it for a living, my new hobby is cocktails!
I don’t mean it in a passed-out-party-girl way. I mean that I genuinely have an interest in mixing cocktails – especially classic cocktails.
I like the research, and I like the history.
I’ve always enjoyed learning how the average person lived during various times in history and I think knowing what people were drinking, what was popular at the time, provides a little glimpse.