It’s a great marketing coup when a new sponsor makes the front pages and the feature pages but Belvedere Vodka did just that when they announced their involvement in the next James Bond film Spectre. Not least among the coverage were the mentions of the first martini James Bond ever ordered. It was back in 1953 in the novel Casino Royale. So, was it the traditional gin martini or a more modern vodka version? The answer is ‘both’.
“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?”
It’s an original recipe and Bond even gives it a name. The Vesper. So named because it is to be drunk at Vespers, in other words sunset.
Being a martini lover, I had to try it. This proved to be problematic. Kina Lillet doesn’t exist any more, and both vodka and Gordon’s Gin are weaker than in 1953. Cocchi Americano is said to be the nearest to Kina Lillet but I couldn’t get hold of any so I substituted a vermouth since that’s the usual ingredient of a martini. I could have searched for a stronger vodka or the extra strength Gordon’s Export but instead I went for Absolut and standard Gordon’s on the basis that, in Bond’s Vesper, shaking the ice had the effect of watering down the strong alcohol. Rather than shake, I stirred gently! To ensure the drink is ice cold, I keep my vodka in the freezer.
Why Absolut, not Belvedere? I love Belvedere vodka and I congratulate them on the success they’ve already had as 007’s sponsors. Interestingly Fleming, who pioneered the naming of brands to add authenticity and a touch of glamour to his novels, doesn’t name a vodka. To him it is clearly simply a way of diluting the flavour of the gin without diluting the alcohol content.
How times have changed. In the last couple of decades, brands of vodka have proliferated. However Belvedere is a premium product, a quadruple distilled rye grain vodka whose beautiful flavour is best enjoyed unadulterated. So I chose Absolut because, in my opinion, it’s the finest wheat vodka in the standard price range.
I found the proportions of three to one in favour of the gin too much for my taste and preferred the subtler effect of equal measures of vodka and gin. The small amount of the vermouth was right, though, making the martini nicely dry. My vermouth of choice is Noilly Prat. To get the driest martini, put the vermouth in, swirl it round the glass (or rub it round with your finger) and pour any excess away.
The lemon is right for the finishing touch and much better than the vulgar olive. It’s best if you take the thin peel and squeeze it to bring out the oil.
After drinking my Vesper, all I needed was a dinner jacket and a Walther PPK and I was ready for Spectre.
A version of this article has appeared on the Daily Echo website.
Some changes were made on 11 March 2015 to the fifth and sixth paragraphs regarding the anonymity of the vodka.