Cocktails with… Grey Goose Original

The first Premium vodka that I ever tried was Grey Goose and that was many, many years ago, so it’s about time that I got around to reviewing it.

Grey Goose was created in 1997 for the American market and, along with its rival Belvedere,  established a place in that market for high-end vodkas. Anyone who knows even a little about vodka will know that, in the past fifteen years, hundreds of new high-end and rather expensive vodkas have been released, with all sorts of unique selling points and obscure filtration methods.

Grey Goose is made in Cognac, France with French Winter Wheat (Class 1, bread quality) from the Picardy region and Gensac spring water.

Since its creation, Grey Goose have released a number of flavoured varieties of their vodka: Lemon, Orange, Vanilla (now, sadly, discontinued), Pear and Black Cherry.

Room Temperature
Nose: A very light nose, grainy with a hint of vanilla
Taste: Thick yet smooth texture with a little lift towards the end. A clean taste with a touch of creamy sweetness and a hint of bitter dark chocolate.

Frozen
Smooth yet powerful, silky with a pleasant mouthfeel. Hint of vanilla, anis and caraway, touch of pepperiness at the end.

Martini
Smooth with an excellent texture; very clean and crisp. Almost chilling in it’s coldness. I would suggest a lemon twist as garnish or nothing at all.

On the rocks
A popular way for some to savour the spirit. I like it as a way to enjoy Grey Goose as, with a little ice melt, some of the more complex notes of the vodka come out such as the creamy, vanilla grain and the slightly bitter herbal notes.

Vesper
Years ago, back in the days when Lillet was very tricky to obtain in the UK, Grey Goose was the vodka that I chose to use in my first Vesper containing Lillet rather than Noilly Prat Dry. As such, this drink has always had a special significance for me.

Very very clean, which is something the Grey Goose really adds to this drink, you can still taste the juniper of the gin and the slight dry bitterness of the Lillet. In this drink the vodka is there to act as a catalyst for the other ingredients and Grey Goose really hits the spot.

Vodka Tonic
An exceptionally smooth vodka and tonic, the vodka actually seems to curb and cloying bitterness from the tonic, I used Schweppes UK. This is very easy to drink as well as being clean, crisp and oh so refreshing.

Harvey Wallbanger
With the strong orange juice and vanilla herbal Galliano this is not the best way to enjoy the subtleties of the spirit but it does demonstrate that when mixing this vodka in longer cocktails it’s smooth texture really does at a clean silkiness to the drink.

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Taste By Appointment

If you’re interested in finding out more about grey Goose Vodka then you might be keen to book into one of their Taste by Appointment Sessions which taking place across the UK.

These will be led by UK Brand Ambassador Joe McCanta and the aim of these sessions will be to give cocktail drinkers the vocabulary and understanding they need
to be able to discover a cocktail that is just right for them. In addition to the session a website will be launched dedicated to help user find a cocktail which is just right for them.

Here are some more detail straight from the Goose’s mouth:

“At each event, guests will be welcomed with a GREY GOOSE Le Fizz reception and
a selection of delicious canapés, before being guided through a series of exciting
and surprising taste experiments.  With Joe’s expert assistance, each guest will
learn how to identify their own personal taste and create bespoke cocktails to
match, before enjoying a personal taste consultation, during which they will have a
cocktail constructed that is perfectly suited to them at that moment. Every guest
will leave with a fuller understanding of how to order a cocktail that they can feel
confident they will enjoy.”

The Dates

The Gilbert Scott – Marcus Wareing – 6 & 9 May
Redhook – 12 May
Bread Street Kitchen – Stuart Gillies – 22 & 23 May
The Artesian Bar, Langham Hotel – Alex Kratena – 29 & 31 May
Great John Street Hotel – 7th June (Manchester)
TigerLily – Tony Sarton – 8th June
The Savoy – Christopher Moore –  16 & 17 June
The Century Club – 26th June
Hakkasan (Hanbury Plc) – 1 July
Rhodes Twenty Four– Andrew Barkham – 2 & 3 July

Ticket are available from ‘Grey Goose Taste’ website (greygoosetaste.com) priced at £75 per person with 25% of that going to The Elton John AIDS Foundation

Grey Goose Original Vodka is priced at around £25 for 70cl from Tesco or £33 from The Whisky Exchange.

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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