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A blend of gin, vodka, aromatised wine and quinquina.
The quinine released by the cinchona bark makes this martini remarkably dry. The Lillet is distinctive but does not mask the gin. Drink this, and you too are James Bond, even if only for a moment.
Stir over ice and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon. Make ‘shaken not stirred’ comment, but don’t actually ever shake it.
History of the Myatt's Fields Vesper Martini
As has been retold a zillion times, the Vesper Martini is the cocktail ordered by James Bond in the first book. As has also been recounted many times, one of the key ingredients, Kina Lillet, was pulled from sale many years ago, rendering the Vesper Martini that James drank that day a lost treasure. At Myatt’s Fields Cocktails, we believe we have solved that puzzle.
James’ recipe is fierce:
“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 barman seemed pleased with the idea. “Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter. Bond laughed. “When I’m 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 think of a good name.”
There are problems with this recipe.
As James is drinking a Martini out of a champagne goblet (?) it sounds pretty big – over 200ml. The problem with that is that either a) it will go warm before you’ve finished it, and nobody likes a warm martini (at all), or b) you will back 200ml of martini in less than ten minutes, and the rest of the evening will be challenging.
That’s not the big problem. The big problem is the absence of Kina Lillet from the shops. Kina Lillet had been one of France’s most popular and best exports for 150 years, all through the stomping around India and Africa that Europeans were very fond of at the time. However, in 1986, under pressure from the US market, the winemakers removed most of Lillet’s quinine and dropped the Kina label (Kina being another word for quinine in French). The result was “fresher, fruitier, and less bitter.”
The winery called it Lillet Blanc, and it’s been available ever since. All fine, but as you can imagine, taking the quinine out of the drink transformed it into something extremely different. If you care about this, you will be pleased to hear that at Myatt’s Fields Cocktails, we have taken the time to infuse the vodka we are using in the Vesper with (we hope) just the right amount of cinchona bark to release the quinine ping that returns our Vesper back to being . Let us know what you think.
Lastly, in the movie Casino Royale, when Vesper asks James if he named the drink after her “because of the bitter aftertaste”, he replies that he named it for her, “because once you have tasted it, you won’t drink anything else.” Pretty cool, and our aspiration for our Vesper.
Really finally, rumour has it that the character Vesper Lind was so named with the idea that if you say it in a Cold War German accent, it sounds like 'West Berlin' - try it.
This is the driest of dry martinis. Let us know what you think.
*Thank you, Anistatia Miller, for this in your book Shaken not Stirred – get yourself a copy