SKYFALL Cocktail – A Drink for the New James Bond Film


With the New James Bond film, “Skyfall”*, due for release in just 4 weeks (26th October 2012) and 2012 being the 50th anniversary of the first Bond Film, Dr No (1962), and the 60th anniversary of the first book, Casino Royale (1952), it seems fitting to come up with a drink to celebrate Bond’s latest adventure in this very special year.

Skyfall Cocktail

25ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
25ml Red Vermouth
25ml Campari
25ml Fresh lemon juice

Shake vigorously until well-chilled (this is essential).
Serve in a cocktail glass and serve with a long, thin piece of orange peel.

The Exposition
1) Unusually, Skyfall sees a lot of action from Bond in London*, so I thought it was fitting to use a gin (the drink of London) that was actually made in the city; Sipsmith, a fine gin in its own right, is made in the London borough of Hammersmith.
2) From the little that I know about Skyfall, it seems that this will be a particularly bitter and sour experience for the character; hence, the bitter and sour flavours from the Campari and lemon juice.
3) One of the rumoured titles for Bond 23 was Risico***, the title of a short Bond story by Fleming. In this story, the agent orders a Negroni, so this drink forms the basis of the Skyfall Cocktail.
4) The garnish is inspired by the long, thin slice of Bond’s Vesper in Casino Royale, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
5) Shaken, not stirred.

The Taste
This deep, dark red drink is strong and intense with clean, crisp gin notes to start. The drink then moves to some sweeter, darker herbal notes and a bitter/sour finish from the Campari and lemon juice.
The drink is bracing and has a good balance of sweet, sour and bitter, making it a good aperitif and appetite-riser.
As a final endorsement, Mrs. B, a known Campari sceptic, thought that this drink was rather delicious and was surprised to have finally found a Campari drink that she liked.

So there we have it: a tasty cocktail that is refreshing, great before dinner and may convert even the most ardent Negroni haters. I hope that you all enjoy the film and no doubt I shall be writing more about the drinks featured in it for the excellent James Bond website, www.tjbd.co.uk.

* His 23rd official (made by EON Productions) film.
** Unusual, because 007, an agent of MI6, only has jurisdiction outside of the UK, whereas those of MI5 have jurisdiction within the UK.
***  Risico is one of only three other Ian Fleming James Bond book titles that have not been made into films; The Hilderbrand Rarity and 007 In New York being the other two. There was a fourth, Quantum of Solace, but that was the name of the 2008 film.

Horse’s Neck Cocktail

There is a new cocktail in my list of favourites and, surprisingly, it is not gin-based, but brandy-based; I am talking about the Horse’s Neck. My fondness for this drink was recently rekindled after writing Monday’s article on ginger ale.

HISTORY

The injured Lieutenant Weston (played by Donald Houston) explains how to make a Horse’s Neck

As a cocktail, the Horse’s Neck is rather unique in that it is equally well-known both as an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic drink. The standard recipe for the latter produces a high-ball glass filled with ginger ale and ice, garnished with a long strip of lemon peel (the “Horse’s Neck”). The alcoholic version used today sees the drink typically fortified with brandy, although some recipes call for whisky or bourbon instead. The alcoholic version is sometimes known as a “Horse’s Neck with a Kick”.

The earliest reference to the cocktail that I have found is from 1st September 1895 from the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal. This refers to it being a soft drink. A later article from December of 1897 mentions the possibility of adding a splash of whisky and, in The Mansfield News in 1900, it is stated that the version using brandy is known as a “Horse’s Collar”. In the latter publication there is also a story that says that the drink was invented by a bartender in attempt to stop his boss from firing him; needless to say it worked.

By the Second World War, the Horse’s Neck had become a favourite beverage to be served in the Officer’s Ward Room in the British Royal Navy; a replacement for the Pink Gin. One of the first on-screen references that I have found of it is in ‘The Yangtze Incident (The True Story of HMS Amethyst)’, notable for its pairing with “Herrings-In” sandwiches.

Aside from British Naval Officers, another notable fan of the brandy and ginger ale concoction was the writer Ian Fleming. Despite his fondness for gin and vodka, this was one of his staples. James Bond himself drinks a double brandy and ginger ale whilst waiting in the VIP airport lounge in the book On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, whilst in disguise as a member of the aristocracy and a Fellow of the College of Arms. In ‘Octopussy’, one of the last Bond stories written by Fleming, Major Smythe (who bears a certain resemblance to the author) drinks two stiff brandy and ginger ales for his elevenses, which he actually takes at 10:30am. Fleming reflects that this beverage is “The Drunkard’s Drink”.

RECIPE

Whilst I accept that the American whiskey version of the Horse’s Neck most likely predates the brandy version, for me, the grape wins over the grain in this instance; no doubt my preference is influenced by my having a family with Naval connections.

Classic Horse’s Neck / Horse’s Collar
50ml Brandy
100ml Ginger Ale
(I like something with ginger and effervescence, for this drink I find Schweppes* hard to beat)
A long thin strip of lemon peel.

This is a great drink: smooth and very easy to drink. A good quality ginger ale is the key, more so than the quality of the spirit. As James Bond says, “the cheapest way to improve the quality of a poor drink is with a good mixer”.

There are some hints of brown sugar and warmth from both the ginger and the brandy. After each sip, you are left with a slight glow and a flicker of ginger fire on the finish. The whole drink is set off nicely by the little zip from the citrus.

Despite its great warming qualities, this is also a very refreshing drink, making it perfect for all year round.

Non-Alcoholic
150ml Ginger Ale
Ice and A long twist of lemon peel

4

VARIATIONS

Original Horse’s Neck

50ml Rye Whisky
100ml Ginger Ale
A long twist of lemon peel

This is very smooth and slightly grainy; the sweetness is of a vanilla, bread-y quality, rather than the burnt sugar flavours of the brandy version.Very nice; lighter and more refreshing then the brandy version, but not as warming.

Presbyterian

30ml Bourbon
40ml Ginger Ale
40ml Soda Water
A long twist of lemon peel
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Major Smythe

Inspired by Major Smythe’s reference to the local (Jamaican) “poison” (drink) being rum and ginger. The Major tells Bond “with the automatic smoothness of an alcoholic” that he prefers the ginger ale by itself.

50ml Skipper Dark Rum
100ml Ginger Ale
A long twist of lime peel

I thought this was very pleasant; a little lighter then a Dark & Stormy, which uses ginger beer, and thus a touch more refreshing. I used Skipper Rum, which gives the drink a really dark, brown sugar and molasses thickness, with a hint of treacle. The drink may have verged towards sickliness if it wasn’t for the freshness provided by the lime twist.

* I mean Schweppes over Canada Dry (sadly they seem to be the same thing in the UK now) I have tried the new Fentiman’s Ginger Ale in a Horse’s Neck and sadly it is just too gingery and so upset the drinks balance.

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The Vesper

Update: I seems that after inventing “the Vesper” Fleming was never really a fan: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/9/27/1348745314585/Ian-Fleming-writes-to-the-001.jpg

Ever since I first read Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale”, I have been captivated by the detail Fleming pays to the food and drink enjoyed by his well-known character. The Vesper, a drink of James Bond’s own creation which he enjoys in the casino in Royale-les-Eaux, is a perfect example of Fleming’s attention to detail.


Bond orders his first Vesper, an extract from Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale (1953):


‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’

‘Oui, monsieur.’

‘Just a moment.  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?’

‘Certainly, monsieur.’  The barman seemed pleased 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 slip.


The first Vesper I mixed used Gordon’s Green Gin, Grey Goose Vodka and Dry Noilly Prat Vermouth, which were the best ingredients I had on hand at the time. After my first glass I immediately developed an affection for the drink, but I knew it could be made better, it could be more authentic.

My first challenge was to find a bottle of Lillet to replace the Noilly Prat I had been using up to that point.  Before the 2006 film release of “Casino Royale”, Lillet was not as easy to find in the UK as it is today.  After an extensive online search and some telephone calls, I ended up taking a trip to Lillet’s UK distributor, arriving just in time to purchase their last two bottles.  At this point I discovered that Kina Lillet no longer existed and that I would have to settle for Lillet Blanc, at least for the moment.

The Vesper

Anyone who has looked into creating a more authentic Vesper will have probably come across David Wondrich’s informative article on the subject; this gave me a great start, but I wanted to go further. I identified three challenges:

1. Achieving the strength of Gordon’s Gin in the early fifties;
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2. Achieving the strength of the vodka in the early fifties; 
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3. Recreating the renamed and reformulated Kina Lillet.


With the passage of time, both Gordon’s Gin and vodka in general have become weaker, and so a Vesper made with modern ingredients just doesn’t have the same kick as the “large and very strong and very cold and very well-made” drink of the 1950’s.  After looking at a plethora of newpapers and magazines for Gordon’s Gin and vodka brand advertisments from the early fifties, I confirmed the following:

1. Gordon’s Export Gin

Gordon’s Export Gin (the variety most likely to have been used in France) was 94.4 proof (47.2% ABV); Given this information, I was delighted to find that Gordon’s still make an Export Gin at 47.2% ABV and eagerly asked the next relative travelling to the continent to pick me up a bottle.

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2. Vodka of the Early Fifites

Vodka varied between 80 and 100 proof (40-50% ABV).  I took Mr. Wordrich’s recommendation and used Stolichnaya Blue (100 proof). There is some suggestion in the book that the vodka used to make the drink in the Casino was not made with grain-based spirit  rather a potato one. I have searched for a 50% potato vodka still made today but am still to find one. (Answers on a postcard please).

 So with the first two challenges behind me, only one remained; the final problem and probably the trickiest:

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3. Recreation of Kina Lillet

Tasting reports suggest that the original Kina Lillet was more bitter than its contemporary, being more heavily flavoured by Cinchoma Bark, the main ingredient of quinine. In addittion sources at Lillet have told be that is was also more syrupy and viscous and was sweeter than the Lillet Blanc of today. I therefore established and experimented with four possible options:

1. Angostura Bitters – a method suggested by David Wondrich, add a few drops to the drink – although a convenient and tasty addition, the result was not as bitter as I would have liked, and the pink tint to the cocktail does not coincide with the pale golden colour of the drink in the novel.

2. Cocchi Americano – a substitute for the Lillet, this is a wine aperitif with a bitter kick and was recommended to me by Jay Hepburn of the Oh Gosh blog; once again, a trip to an obscure supplier was in order, but it was well worth a visit.  This is a tasty product in its own right and although it makes a good tasting Vesper, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, as the drink contained no Lillet, it wasn’t really a true Vesper.

From Left to Right: Stolichnaya Blue, Cocchi Americano, Lillet Blanc, China Martini, Gordon’s Export gin

3.  Quinine Bark – A third alternative would be to add a little quinine powder or bark, either directly to the drink, or using it to create a Lillet infusion. I have now sourced some Cinchona Bark and have experimented a little with some success. I think getting the timing right for the infusion is  a bit tricky and also working out how best to sweeten the Lillet will take a bit to work out.

4. China (“kee-na”) Martini – a gift from a relative who had recently returned from Italy, this had sat unopened in the cellar for a few years.  On inspection, I discovered that it is a product made by Martini Rossi, heavily flavoured with Cinchoma Bark – how promising!  After testing various combinations, I found that a 50/50 mix of this and Lillet Blanc worked best, adding the level of bitterness that I sought, as well as the important pale golden colour described in the book. This seemed to be the closest I have come so far.

5. Jean de Lillet – a reserve version of Lillet Blanc, I cannot seem to find any consensus (even within the Lillet Company)m as to whether this is more or less similar to Kina Lillet than Lillet Blanc.

Although my quest for the authentic Vesper is ongoing, I feel that I have reached a milestone. Here is my somewhat work-in-progress recipe for a more authentic Vesper.

One More Thought

When you’ve spent as much time as I have thinking about this drink as I have you come up with some strange theories, here’s my favourite: The Vesper was that it combined three essential aspects of the book. James Bond, The British secret agent (GIN) The Russians whom Bond is fighting (VODKA) and the backdrop for their encounter, France (LILLET). Maybe the vodka undertones reflect the turmoil of the character?

Was this intentional or a happy coincidence? Who can say? But like I said I think it’s rather neat.


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