Aviation Gin Blog
Gin Meet Vodka, Vodka Meet Gin
The Vesper Martini, a lovely cocktail, soft and delicate, yet strong and stirred. Easily enjoyed by the classiest of ladies or men.
A little history on the Vesper
It is an understatement to say that the history of the drink is arguable. Most claim it was invented at Duke’s in London while Ian Fleming was writing the first two Bond novels. Let the prosecution begin…
Duke’s Hotel claim they created it in collaboration with Fleming, and he regularly consumed them there. That is a bit hard to believe after taking a look at Fleming’s word as gospel from the following letter he wrote to the Manchester Guardian, where he states that he believes the cocktail to be “unpalatable”.
Others state that one of the barman at Duke’s, Gilberto Preti created it, which has even further confusion because at time he’s alleged to have created it he wouldn’t have been old enough to work on the bar.
Some also say that the drink was actually invented by a friend of Fleming’s, Ivar Bryce. In Bryce’s copy of Casino Royale Fleming it is said that inside is an inscription,
“For Ivar, who mixed the first Vesper and said the good word. He mentioned this in his book “You Only Live Once – Memories of Ian Fleming”
It is, however, a true fact that it is ordered by Bond in the 1953 007 Casino Royale, though not by name – in the movie he creates it on the fly and lists off the cocktail’s individual parts and their quantities.
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one 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?”After taking a long sip, “Excellent … but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.” –James Bond
As the film goes on he names it after the lovely and dangerous double-agent Vesper Lynd.
David Wondrich, author of famed books such as Punch, the Delights and Dangers of the Flowering Bowl, and Imbibe! did an update in Esquire back in 2006.
“Shake (if you must) with plenty of cracked ice…
3 oz Tanqueray gin
1 oz 50% (100-proof) Stolichnaya vodka
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1/8 teaspoon (or less) quinine powder or, in desperation, 2 dashes of bitters.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and twist a large swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.”
With that we move into the body of the argument, ingredients, where the finest of cocktail history buffs (aka geeks), get their tail feathers ruffled.
In the 50’s most vodkas were 100 proof, hence the lesser pour in the cocktail.
Lillet Blanc, an aperitif wine made from fermented Bordeaux grapes, fruit macerations, (specifically of bitter and sweet orange peel and other fruits that are proprietary secrets), as well as the chinchona botanical, have been defending the non factual rumor that they have changed their recipe since the resurgence of similar products such as Cocchi Americano (Hauz Alpenz), and Kina l’Avion, (Tempus Fugit).
Erik Ellestad, writer of savoystomp.com states, “I was recently rebuked by the Ladies of Lillet, I don’t recommend crossing them.” He goes on to say,“In all seriousness, in the past Lillet Blanc may have been more like what the Lillet company now calls Jean de Lillet, but it was probably never anything like Cocchi Americano or Kina l’Avion.
After a many long-winded comments on the subject from multiple Facebook cocktail enthusiast’s, Erik makes one last point that seems to really brings it home.
“I should say, in the past Lillet may have been more like Jean de Lillet’, I mean in the vicinity of 1900-1920. According to most people who have tried pre and post 1980s ‘reformulation’ samples of Lillet, they are pretty indistinguishable. The so-called reformulation of the 1980s was more of a re-branding and marketing push, to help re-capitalize after the company had invested in modernization of some of its production methods.
My eyes are rolling back in my head too. Let me just say, I love Lillet, and Cocchi, and Kina I’Avion, for so many different reasons. That’s the wonderful part; it’s all about your taste buds and what you like!
Tim Cooper, of Gold Bar, NYC has a very open mind about the whole thing,“Kina at this point is in its own category and is nothing close to either the current Lillet or the Cocchi. In regards to the Vesper, both Lillet and the Cocchi would work quite well dependent upon the GIN.”
Debate will forever rage…and I’m not even going to bring up who shakes and who stirs their Vesper? Or did that just happen? He he he…
So we thought we’d throw a wrench at the Vesper Martini even deeper. Here is our version, which we think Mr. James Bond, Ian Fleming, David Wondrich, and Erik Ellestad would all enjoy over at our bar at House Spirits Distillery.
1.5 oz Volstead Vodka
1 oz Aviation American Gin
.5 oz Imbue’s Petal and Thorn Vermouth
Add all ingredients into a stirring vessel, stir with ice for 30 seconds, strain and pour into a cold martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Sip slowly in your finest white tux.
-Brooke Arthur would like to thank the following for their exciting Vesper contributions:
Jackie Patterson, SF
Erik Ellestad. SF
Rick Dobbs, SF
Adam Elmegirab, Scotland
Stew Ellington, Oakland, CA
Tim Cooper, NYC
Josh Gelfand, SF
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