Sunday, June 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #1: Literature (or Shaken, Not Stirred)

I can't claim credit for this idea.  It was all Jay's. But I am old enough to admit that I am not likely to surpass this in terms of perfection  for the challenge, so here it is.   I also somehow got my dates confused and thought the challenge ended today, not started today, so I am (for once) ahead of schedule not behind..  yay! And it's kind of ironic that I will be late on my HSF challenge entry.

I would like to humbly offer the iconic Vesper martini from Casino Royale (published in 1953)

The Challenge:  #1  Literature
Date/Region:  1953.  Since Bond invented the Vesper, I'm going to say British for the region.

The first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953.  So it fits the pre-1960 requirement.
The 1953 cover, designed by Ian Fleming himself, from

The recipe itself comes directly from the book, which is about as primary as primary documentation can get. :)  In chapter 7, Rouge et Noir, Bond is in the casino and orders a drink.

"A dry martini," Bond said.  "One in a deep champagne goblet... three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Linnet.  Shake it very well until its ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel, got it?"

A few lines later he says:  "This drink's my own invention.  I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."    After a sip of the drink, he tells the barman: "Excellent.  But if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better."  The name comes in the next chapter, Pink Lights and Champagne, when he meets Vesper Lynd and names the drink after her.  

Interestingly, this is the only time in the novels that Bond orders a Vesper.  In other books, he orders vodka or gin martinis, but still always shaken, not stirred.  The only other reference to the Vesper in the Bond universe is in the movie Quantum of Solace in which Bond drinks 6 of them. (which is quite the impressive feat, because one of these is pretty darned potent.)

The ingredients were as simple as a trip to the liquor store (or the package store as they say in Georgia). I was afraid we were going to have difficulty finding the Kina Linnet, but the store had 2 kinds of a French aperitif wine called Linnet. A quick Google illuminated us that they don't sell Kina Linnet anymore, but that the blonde Linnet would be an acceptable substitute.

The Gordon's Gin was easy to find, but apparently in 1953, Gordon's was a 100 proof gin and what you can readily buy now is 80 proof.  

Since the only specific for the vodka was grain not potato, we went with Grey Goose, which is our preferred brand to drink.  Technically speaking, this is not entirely period correct for the recipe, since Grey Goose wasn't around until the 1990s, but I am willing to cede this point of accuracy since the remainder of the bottle will remain in our liquor cabinet.

We are sort of cocktail geeks and are rather fond of a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned in the evening, so we had all the cocktail mixing tools (shaker, strainer, jigger) on hand already.

We did not, however, have the classic champagne coupe glasses that Bond specifies for the Vesper.

I actually looked around locally for champagne coupe, thinking I would pick up a pair and be more historically correct, but the only place I found them was Williams-Sonoma and I didn't want to spend $70 just for this challenge, so the trusty cocktail glass will have to suffice.

Pretty straightforward.  Put into the shaker 3 large jiggers of Gordon's, 1 of vodka and a smaller jigger of Lillet.

Actually, the picture is incorrect.  The ingredients go in the glass part of the shaker.

Shake until icy cold.
I'd say that looks icy cold, wouldn't you?

Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon peel.  

Time to make: 5 minutes.  Time to research...  much longer than that :) 

Total cost:  So hard to calculate since we bought whole bottles of liquor and only used a few ounces of each.

How successful was it:  Very.  *hic*

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