Today The Drunkard’s Almanac has a somewhat surprising treat. While the celebration is not well known, its protagonist is certainly qualified as a drinker. You see, October 5 is International James Bond day. For any drinker International James Bond Day and the Vesper go together hand in hand.
Why is this today? October 5, 1962 was the release date of Dr. No, the first in the long running film series. Sean Connery was up there on the screen as Bond, Ursula Andress established the Bond-girl franchise, Lois Maxwell placed her stamp as Miss Moneypenny and Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No established the underground lair as standard operating procedure for a supervillain. Good stuff indeed.
So now you’re all thinking of the Vesper cocktail, and rightfully so, even if the drink was actually introduced in Ian Fleming’s first book, Casino Royale. As you are doubtless aware the exchange went like this:
“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?”
“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 think of a good name.”
So in one fell swoop your favorite spy started the whole shaken vs. stirred debacle, which haunts us to this day. And Bond was just plain wrong on this one: a martini or its variations should be stirred, and if you shake them as we already noted FDR did you had better do something great like prevail in World War II or end Prohibition to make up for your errant ways. if you do want to shake a spirits-only drink we’d recommend the Stinger. Some of you may not be aware of this, but in Fleming’s books Bond was something of a malcontent, not entirely the suave character embodied in the films, and the comment by Leiter is every bit as mocking as it is appreciative of his ways. But we do forgive James Bond because, after all, how many of us regularly perform death-defying feats while shitfaced?
But speaking of Vespers, we should take note that while all Bond characters have been raging drinkers, Daniel Craig outdoes the rest of them. In Quantum of Solace he consumed something like six Vespers in a Virgin Airlines first class lounge. Pretty much an average evening at home for most of you, but commendable when on duty.
So on to the Drink of the Day. Yes, it’s the Vesper. You have the recipe above, but first a note on ingredients. You must skip the urge to buy a bottle of Lillet. You’ll see it in the stores, and there’s debate over this point, but in 1986 Lillet dropped the Kina from the name and apparently most of the quinine from the drink. But the situation is not as dire as it may seem – you simply need to buy a bottle of Cocchi Americano. It is properly bittered and strongly recommended by our Editorial Board.
- 2 ¼ oz London Dry Gin
- ¾ oz vodka
- ¾ oz Cocchi Americano
- Garnish: Lemon twist
- If you want to follow Bond you’ll add the ingredients to your trusty shaker and shake vigorously until cold.
- If you prefer more civilized martinis you will instead add the ingredients to your trusty mixing glass and stir with ice
- Pour into chilled cocktail glass
- Add lemon twist
- Perform death defying feats