James Bond to the bartender:
– Dry Martini.
– Oui, monsieur.
– Wait ... three measures of Gordon's; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.
– Yes, sir!
With that brief exchange in his novel Casino Royale, Ian Fleming redeemed himself (somewhat) for the damage done to cocktail culture by having his hero, James Bond, order vodka “martinis” thus helping to popularize this abomination. Things have not been the same since. Silly, vodka-based drinks abound, and relatively few people know the joys of a genuine Martini (5 parts gin, 1 part vermouth).
But that’s all water – or maybe vodka – over the dam, so let’s move on and have a drink.
Bond’s cocktail order is called a Vesper, after Vesper Lynd, the original Bond Girl and supposedly his one true love. All that aside, this is one fabulous cocktail – a lovely variation on a traditional Martini, and one of the few legitimate cocktail uses for vodka. The addition of vodka to the mix curbs the bite of the gin and makes room for the Kina Lillet to bring in a hit of sweet/tart flavor. Lovely! And suitable any time of year – from the icy months to the dog days of summer.
One problem: Kina Lillet is no longer made. So we substitute Cocchi Americano, and keep right on sipping.
- 3 parts gin
- 1 part vodka
- .5 part Cocchi Americano
- Lemon peel
Combine the ingredients, shake until very cold (like Bond would), strain into a cocktail glass, and add the lemon peel.
About the ingredients: Lillet is a French wine-based aperitif made in three versions: Blanc, Rose, and Rouge. All are lovely to sip on ice with a little bit of lime, and mix nicely into cocktails. The Kina variation, which was flavored with a hint of quinine and was thus less-sweet than the others, is no longer made. Cocchi Americano is also a wine-based aperitif, from Italy, not France. It has a similar flavor to Lillet Blanc, but also has a touch of quinine. I’ve tried Vespers made with Lillet and Cocchi Americano (both easy to find at a good liquor store, and not all that pricey). The latter is definitely better.