The Vesper Martini is the famed drink of choice of James Bond [until he sold his soul to Heineken, that is]. Although most people only know of Bond’s preference for “shaken, not stirred” [I’ll give my two cents on that later], he actually offered his exact drink specifications in Ian Fleming’s 1953 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. Got it?’
We’ve given 007’s drink some tries and put our own twist on it. As for Heineken… we never touch the stuff in this house.
The first time we made Vesper Martinis it was at R’s request. As an afficionado of swanky British menswear it was only natural that he felt the need to try this Bond drink, right? I’ll admit, I wasn’t really sold on it that first time. Although I do enjoy a classic Gin Martini I’m not a fan of vodka, which was probably what kept me from liking the Vesper Martini at first blush. I wasn’t particularly feeling a need to try the drink again… until inspiration struck.
I’d had a bottle of Grasovka [Polish Bisongrass Vodka] sitting around for probably about 6 months. As the name would imply, it is a Polish vodka that has been flavored with the sweet, herbal bisongrass that grows there. Although I dislike vodka, I was intrigued by what I’d heard about it. I generally like herbal liquors [hello, gin… hello, campari…], so it certainly had potential, despite the vodka label. The main reason it spent so long sitting around unopened was that I was unsure how to best use it. My googling had resulted only in “recipes” for Bisongrass Vodka + apple juice – hardly an exciting prospect. After a while I realized, duh, I need to actually taste it before I can know what drink it will work in.
As fate would have it, I opened the bottle for a taste on the same day that I found one of our favorite gins, Crafter’s, being sold at a local shop. As soon as I tasted the vanilla-y smoothness of the Grasovka I had an aha moment. I knew that in a Vesper Martini it would blend perfectly with the herbal notes of my newly purchased gin. A drink with this much punch can sometimes be difficult to enjoy, but the smoothness of the ingredients belies its alcoholic content.
As a contrast to Bond’s classically British Vesper Martini, I present… the Wanderlust Vesper Martini:
RECIPE: WANDERLUST VESPER MARTINI
3 parts Crafter’s Gin* – Estonia
1 part Grasovka Bisongrass Vodka – Poland
1/2 part Lillet Blanc – France
Grapefruit peel slice
Measure the first 3 ingredients and mix with ice – your choice of shaken or stirred**. Serve straight up in a martini glass with a grapefruit peel twist. Drink with your pinky up, because you are a seriously classy human being.
*If Crafter’s Gin is not available, I recommend using a different herb-heavy gin as a substitute – Black Forest gins also work well
**Personally, I’m partial to stirred, as I like my drinks quite strong and this gives less dilution from the ice. If super strong drinks aren’t quite your thing, give ‘er a good shake with the ice.