The African Martini – from the New Bond Book – SOLO – Spoiler Free Zone!

Today is the launch of “Solo”, the new James Bond book by William Boyd. In true Fleming tradition, it’s packed full of detail on food and drink; there’s even a recipe for a vinegarette, as well as instructions on making a Vodka Martini and, finally, a new cocktail. I’m a big Bond fan (both books and films) and having now read the book in its entirety, I think that this is probably the best Bond novel since Kingsley Amis’ (Rober Markum) “Colonel Sun”.

Most of my writing on the new Bond Book will be on http://www.tjbd.co.uk, but, as this is a gin drink, I thought I’d share it with you:

SoloAfrican Martini

The African Martini

Gordon’s Gin (47.3% ABV Export)
Limes
Ice
Tumblers

Pour a couple of fingers-worth of gin (50ml) into the glass, add the juice of half a lime (throw away the shells), and add ice. Give it a quick swirl.

When you want another drink, just build it on top of the remains of the existing one.

The Taste
A great combination of flavours and the use of Gordon’s harks back to the Vesper from Casino Royale. It is strong, yet refreshing and mellows with ice melt. The essential flavours are, understandably, juniper and lime and I think that it’s simple, but rather lovely. Essentially, it is a gin sour (without the sugar).

Postscript Inspired by Bond/Boyd’s African Martini:
Having made the drink above, I made a variation of my own:

Evans On Safari

Gordon’s Gin (47.3% ABV Export)
Lemons and Limes
Ice Tumblers

Pour a couple of fingers-worth of gin (50ml) into the glass, add the juice of quarter of a lime and quarter of a lemon (throw away the quarters), and add ice. Give it a quick swirl.

When you want another drink, just build it on top of the remains of the existing one.

This is inspired by the Evans Gin & Tonic (which uses both lemon and lime as garnishes). It has a more mellow and crisper (less sour) taste than the original, producing a slightly more nonchalant version.

The Drinks of Dr. No – Celebrating 50 Years of the First James Bond Film

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the release of the first James Bond film* Dr No on 5th October 1962 (possibly my favourite film) and it also marks the official release of the new theme song, sung by Adele, for the new James Bond film Skyfall.** So it seems fitting to put off the planned article*** and do a little something to celebrate one of the best Bond Films.

Vodka Martini

“One Medium-Dry Vodka Martini and mixed how you said Sir, and not stirred”

An early introduction to Bond’s signature drink; made for him by a hotel porter. Bond has his Martinis “Medium-Dry” (5:1 or 4:1) and in Dr. No he uses Smirnoff Red Vodka. I used this and Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (In Dr. No Bond actually uses Martini Extra Dry.

Clean an crisp but with the low-strength Smirnoff not too overpowering, a little hint of grain and a touch of vanilla  The lemon adds a pleasant zestiness that adds life to an otherwise pure (maybe even plain) drink.

Later in the film Bond drinks Smirnoff Red neat.

Red Stripe Beer

Hailing from Jamaica, where the film is set, there is little wonder that this is what they drink in Pussfellas Bar (they get through a lot of it as the stock room is packed with crates.

Red Stripe was created by Desnoes & Geddes in 1928 (They also make an excellent ginger beer and the rather lovely Ting) but from 1976 it has been brewed under contract in the UK. Like Smirnoff Red Stripe is now owned by Diageo.

Like the Martini Red Stripe is quite light and very refreshing with a warm hoppiness at the end. A little touch of citrus. On a hot Jamaican day when you’ve been suspiciously fighting folks who turn out to be your allies this is just what you need to quench your thirst.

Finally although not in the film this is a great drink from the book of Dr. No.

The James Bond Gin & Tonic

Bond ordered a double gin and tonic and one whole green lime. When the drink came he cut the lime in half, dropped the two squeezed halves into the long glass, almost filled the glass with ice cubes and then poured in the tonic. He took the drink out on to the balcony, and sat and looked out across the spectacular view.

The James Bond Gin & Tonic: Chapter IV Reception Committee, Dr. No (1958)

As ever a delicious drink that is tart but not overly so. I used Bombay Dry Gin (a very classic style of gin) and it works well although some may prefer to use a gin with a higher ABV. Even so few will be disappointed by this Bond Beverage.

For more James Bond and Skyfall info check out the excellent resources at: http://www.tjbd.co.uk/

Also why not check out a Skyfall Cocktail?

* There was an early US TV-onlky outing where James Bond was an American
called “Jimmy” and Le Chiffre was played by Peter Lorre (one of his last roles)
** Check it out here.
*** Navy Strength Gin will be out on Monday.

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.

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;
.
2. Achieving the strength of the vodka in the early fifties; 
.
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.

.
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:

.
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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