As someone who works in the business, I'm always impressed by great marketing. As someone who likes a martini, I love a great vodka. So imagine my feeling of ecstasy when Belvedere Vodka made the front pages with their sponsorship of the next James Bond film Spectre.
Prominent in the coverage were mentions of the first martini James Bond ever ordered. It was back in 1953 in the novel Casino Royale. So, was it the traditional gin martini or a more modern vodka version? The answer is ‘both’.
“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?”
It’s an original drink invented by a friend of Ian Fleming. Bond even gives it a name. The Vesper. So called because it is to be drunk at Vespers, in other words sunset.
Being a martini lover, I had to try it. This proved to be problematic. Kina Lillet doesn’t exist any more, Vodka is weaker than in 1953 as is Gordon’s Gin. Cocchi Americano is said to be the nearest to Kina Lillet but I couldn’t get hold of any so I substituted a vermouth since that’s the usual ingredient of a martini.
Stirred Not Shaken
I could have searched for a stronger vodka or the extra strength Gordon’s Export but instead I went for Absolut and standard Gordon’s on the basis that, in Bond’s Vesper, shaking the ice had the effect of watering down the strong alcohol. Rather than shake, I stirred gently! To ensure my martinis are ice cold, I keep my vodka in the freezer.
Why Absolut, not Belvedere? I love Belvedere vodka and I congratulate them on the success they’ve already had from their 007 sponsorship. It's true a Vesper should be made with grain vodka, as Bond makes clear when he disparages potato vodka (obviously he hadn't tasted Chase Vodka). It's also clear Fleming who is never slow at naming a brand doesn't consider vodka worth a second thoght- it's only there to dilute the flavour of the gin while keeping up the alcohol content.
The thing is, Belvedere is a premium product, a quadruple distilled rye grain vodka whose beautiful flavour is best enjoyed unadulterated. So I chose Absolut as my favourite wheat grain vodka in the standard price range.
I found the proportions of three to one in favour of the gin too much for my taste and preferred the subtler effect of equal measures of vodka and gin. The small amount of the vermouth was right, though, making the martini nicely dry. My vermouth of choice is Noilly Prat. To get the driest martini, put the vermouth in, swirl it round the glass (or rub it round with your finger) and pour any excess away.
The lemon is right for the finishing touch and much better than the vulgar olive. It’s best if you take the thin peel and squeeze it to bring out the oil.
I'm not sure if the cocktail I ended up with was anything like 007's original Vesper but after drinking it, I felt all I needed was a dinner jacket and a Walther PPK to be ready for Spectre. The film I mean, not the evil organisation.