The Vesper

December 30, 2019

The Bear’s Vesper is a variation of the classic James Bond martini, which Bond orders in the book, Casino Royale: “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.” The drink is named after Vesper Lynd, who appears in the novel.

The Bear prefers Tanqueray and uses Lillet Blonde, which is a French aperitiv wine. Lillet may be hard to find, as not many liquor stores carry it. Few restaurants have it either. It is a happy experience when you spot a bottle on the bar shelf of a good restaurant or bar or, even better, if the Vesper appears on their cocktail list. The choice of vodka is up to you. The Bear uses Svedka. Mamma Bear prefers Grey Goose.

The recipe below uses 2 parts gin to 1 part vodka, yet keeps the half part of Lillet. It results in a very refreshing martini that is not quite as harsh as a gin martini.

Another notable point is that the Bear does not shake the drink. The following dialogue from an episode of The West Wing explains it all:

President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet:  Can I tell you what’s messed up about James Bond?
Charlie Young:  Nothing.
President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet:  Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.

Evidently, the recipe for Lillet was changed in the 1980’s to reduce the bitterness that was the result of the addition of quinine. Lillet Blonde adds a slight sweetness and orange flavor to the drink. Some recipes call for the addition of quinine powder or, if unavailable, a drop or two of bitters.

Put ice in a martini glass and fill with cold water. Let it sit while you make the drink (3-5 minutes) to chill the glass.

Tanqueray Gin
Lillet Blonde
Bitters (optional)

Mixing the Drink:
Fill a shaker with ice cubes
Add 1/2 shot of Lillet Blonde
Add 1 shot of vodka
Add 2 shots of gin
Add 2 drops of bitters (if desired)
Stir about 15 times (do not shake)
Strain into the martini glass.

While no garnish is necessary, a twist of lemon is a nice addition.

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