It seemed almost silly to try to make one…but the classic James Bond martini has always fascinated me. I’m not talking about the clichéd Sean Connery “vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.” I’m talking about the real James Bond martini, which appeared in Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel “Casino Royale” and only appeared in the most recent “Casino Royale” movie starring Daniel Craig.
To quote the novel:
‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’ ‘Oui, monsieur.’ ‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s (gin), 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 pleasant 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 can think of a good name.’
He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker. He reached for it and took a long sip.
‘Excellent,’ he said to the barman, ‘but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.’
To quote the movie: http://youtu.be/Vc7n7yyXWsU
Bond named this drink the Vesper martini, after a female agent in the story.
My version of this classic drink remains true to the original, though I’ve changed brands due to personal preference. In the novel, Bond just asks for “vodka.” (Of course, this was back in the 1950′s when we didn’t have 100 brands to choose from!) My choice for best-bang-for-the-buck grain vodka is Tito’s: it has just enough of an edge, which is what this drink needs, and it’s half the price of other grain vodkas, like Grey Goose.
Bond asks for Gordon’s gin. I’m partial to Hendrick’s, which adds wonderful floral notes to the drink.
And the original Kina Lillet has had its formula changed in the 1980′s to keep up with the times by reducing the quinine, which made it bitter. The French aperitif wine, Lillet, is today’s version: a blend of wine grapes, oranges, orange peels and quinine. Lillet is not a vermouth, though you’ll find it in the vermouth section of your favorite liquor store. Some aficionados claim the martini is just not the same without the original Kina Lillet formulation, but I find that the drink works just fine for me.
So…measurements true to Bond:
3 oz Hendrick’s
1 oz Tito’s
1/2 oz Lillet
I prefer combining these over ice in a cocktail shaker, and I stir, not shake.
I strain it into a chilled martini glass and I skip the lemon peel. I prefer three olives instead…stuffed with garlic, if my wife is away on a business trip!
A side note: the correct pronunciation of Lillet is Lih-LAY. Grammatically in French, the double-l would make it sound like Lih-YAY. So to keep that from happening, they spelled it Lilet for a while until the French were used to the correct pronunciation, then they went back to Lillet on the bottle.