Author Ian Fleming’s James Bond is perhaps given the most credit with the martini’s phoenix-like status over the years. Every so often, a Bond movie comes out and the famous “Shaken, not stirred,” line delivered by the Bond du jour inspires many to order up the deliciously dry concoction. Just released, the remade Casino Royalerevisits the old 1953 story in which Flemming had high hopes for his version of the martini.
About midway through the film, during the poker games to end all poker games, Bond orders a martini, and on second thought, gives the barman a recipe. In our jaded modern world one might think that calling out a specific brand of gin in a movie might be product placement, but true to the original Casino Royale, Bond orders his drink with three parts Gordon’s Gin, one of vodka and a half-measure of Kina Lillet, garnished with a long slice of lemon peel. Take note, all you closet romanticists: Bond then christens his new concoction the Vesper.
Let’s deconstruct this recipe. Gordon’s is a brand of London dry gin, fitting for a spy of the British Crown. In the original Casino Royale, the vodka, some say, represented the Russian influence during the Cold War, when the drink originally was invented. In the remake, however, the Cold War is reminisced about. The Kina Lillet is an interesting choice as a substitute for the dry vermouth. This herbal wine is often substituted for the dry French vermouth in classic martini recipes. By using so much, it has a tendency to make the martini slightly amber in color and very wet. The addition of a lemon peel is interesting not only for the color and shape, but the chemical reaction as well. Lemon peel tends to soak up the harsh bitterness of gin to some degree and imparts a light citrus flavor if left to marinate for a few minutes. It’s subtle, but so is Bond.
Only once in Fleming books did Bond drink a martini. In subsequent books, Bond drank champagne, bourbon and scotch. It was only in the movies that the famous martini-drinking spy developed his signature drink. As an final note and commentary about Bond’s legendary martini status, in the remake of Casino Royale, a bartender asks the new blond, blue-eyed Bond if he wants his martini shaken or stirred. “I don’t give a damn,” he replies.