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A Vesper martini worthy of James Bond. File photo
Cheers! North County Columns Food & Wine

Cheers! North County: A Vesper martini adventure

I’ve been walking past the bottle for months. I bought it back in July. When all my 2020 resolutions, mostly revolving around socializing more often, fell apart I decided to be proactive in trying new things. Specifically, new alcoholic things…and also more exercise. I swear.

I reintroduced myself to tequila. I made some fancy blended drinks. I got really into whiskey. Gin was a spirit that I planned on experiencing in 2020 but never did. I put it on the liquor shelf, and then I avoided it like the plague. I don’t know why. Fear maybe?

At one point I moved it to the front to force myself to confront it every time I made a cocktail. Later, I moved it to the back in shame. 2020 finally came to an end (really!), and the safety seal around the cap was still intact.

One week into 2021 I realize I can no longer live in fear. I’m going to drink this gin, but I need a little inspiration. In the 2006 film, “Casino Royale,” James Bond orders a martini while in a high-stakes card game.

The film nearly lifts the line directly from the 1953 Ian Fleming novel of the same name.

“Wait,” Bond says. “Three measures of Gordon’s Gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake until it’s ice-cold and add a thin slice of lemon peel.”

If it is good enough for James, an accomplished drinker if there ever was one, it is good enough for me. The original recipe was developed by the novelist’s friend Ivar Bryce. Gordon’s isn’t quite on the same caliber these days as it used to be, and Kina Lillet is no longer produced, so I improvised.

I also don’t have Bond’s liver, nor do I drink gin often so I decided to halve the recipe for my first attempt (recommended) while keeping the appropriate ratios.

I put the booze into my cocktail shaker over ice, shake vigorously, pour into a small glass and add the thin peel of a very plump Meyer lemon recently acquired from a neighbor’s yard. First thought, How fun is this? I miss shaking cocktails behind the bar. Then I took a sip. Second thought, Oh dear god, what have I done?

The Vesper Martini

  • 3 parts gin
  • 1 part vodka
  • ½ part dry vermouth
  • Garnish with a thin-sliced lemon peel

The pine of the juniper hits first, both in scent and taste. It is confusing because I’m sitting in my living room, and not out in the forest hiking. For motivation, I put “Casino Royale” on the projector before taking my second sip. This time I’m able to start picking out added flavors.

The sweet lemon blends with a tartness that I’m guessing comes from the coriander infused in this particular gin. My third thought is, “Well that is interesting,” and it is.

The botanicals infused into the gin — there are 10 — along with the fresh lemon, dry vermouth and vodka all blend together into a unique flavor profile both sweet, tart and brisk that it makes me angry I didn’t do this six months ago.

Vesper martini
All the ingredients for a Vesper martini. Photo by Ryan Woldt

Onscreen, card players are distracted, first by the beautiful Vesper Lynd, and second by the unique martini ordered by James. Several players join him, though CIA agent Felix Leiter asks the bartender to “keep the fruit.” Later James decides to name the cocktail after what will become the love of his life, and the Vesper martini is born. My final thought, I think I’ll have another. Cheers James.

Fun fact: “Vespers” refers to an evening religious service, and is commonly used as a reference for early evening. Conveniently, this is also James Bond’s favorite time for a cocktail and overlaps with the modern happy hour.           

Do you listen to podcasts? Are you interested in interesting things being done by interesting people in North County San Diego? Be sure to check out the most recent episode of the Cheers! North County podcast. Stream it on The Coast News online or search for it on your favorite podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Season 3 of the Cheers! North Count Podcast is underway. Upcoming guests include the founders of First Light Coffee Whiskey and Pacific Coast Spirits, and the team from San Diego’s Climate Action Campaign. Follow Cheers! North County on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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