I may have mentioned my friend Iron Phil to you before. He is a legit coffee roaster, raconteur, renaissance man, and all around good guy. He knows good whiskey, wine and cigars. Not to mention his knack for cooking traditional French dishes and obscure Italian ones. Good guy, even for a bachelor.
He introduced me to some of the traditional cocktails over the years and one of the first, and although not my personal favorite (the Old Fashioned is), it is awesome.
I asked him if I could do an interview, over text, about the Vesper Martini of James Bond Casino Royale fame and he obliged.
Here you go:
Me: How/when introduced to the Vesper?
Iron: I arrived at the party a bit late, taking interest in it from Casino Royale back in ought six. My parents always loved classic martinis but for them in a 6:1 ratio of London dry gin to dry vermouth and always 3 onions, never green olives. So I was aware of martinis but they used gin that was like the old Aqua-Net hairspray. But yeah the movie got me.
Me: So your parents introduced you to martinis, Bond mentions it, and you showed interest?
Iron: Yes, I actually never drank or smoked in college. Straight as an arrow which is hard to do when you go to school in Pullman. I started showing an interest in vintage cocktails after I got out and went to a weekend party of an old friend and he introduced me to good spirits and good cigars. Was a great party.
Me: So he made you one and you were hooked?
Iron: It was well made but what I appreciated was that he went the “extra mile.” He did a really good job recreating it to the original. I would say better than what most bartenders can do today.
Me: What was the “extra mile?”
Iron: Well in the original Casino Royale, which was made in 1953, the original Vesper contained a fortified wine called Kina Lilet which is now no longer in production and hasn’t been for over 20 years. Most bartenders use Lilet Blanc, which is NOT the same thing – too sweet!
Me: Then what do you use if the traditional fortified wine is no longer available and you don’t like Lilet Blanc?
Iron: I think Cocchi Americano is the best. If you don’t have a DeLorean or 1.21 gigawatts, to go back to 1953, then yes, use Cocchi as your aperitif.
Me: How about the gin and vodka choices? Is there a classic combo?
Iron: I personally like Pacific Distillery in Woodinville for their Voyager gin and 206 for the Vodka, both local in the 3:1 ratio. Bond would say Gordon’s for the gin but Aviation and Bloom are also great choices for clean tasting gin. Bonus tip: keep away from dirty martinis unless you like to wear Uggs.
Me: Shaken or stirred?
Iron: I like stirred because the shaken seems to make the drink a little too cloudy, depending on the gin. The phrase “shaken, not stirred” is from Dr. No bee tee dubs. If you do a classic martini, shaken probably helps mellow out the dry vermouth however, calms it down but once you go Vesper, it is hard to go back to vermouth I think.
Me: What about lemon?
Iron: To make a proper Vesper, you don’t need to do a full peel, rather a twist dropped in or a brush along the rim of the glass. Just enough. I like spoon wrap myself. Looks good too!
Me: Where does the name Vesper come from?
Iron: Vesper Lynd, Bond’s lust interest. Also I should point out that a Vesper should be served in a classic v-shaped martini glass. You could also serve in a coupe, but traditionally in the classic V. Also, do NOT keep your aperitif at room temp in your liquor cabinet. It should be well chilled. Treat like opened white wine as oxidation will occur.
3 oz Gin
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano or Lilet Blanc
Add to your cocktail shaker and stir around 30 times with plenty of ice. Pour into your chilled martini glass and add your lemon twist either into glass or lightly brush along rim. Enjoy.