Shaken AND Stirred: The Martini (part two)

And we’re back! I have four more Martini references in honor of everyone’s favorite British special agent. These are special because they aren’t the traditional gin and vermouth mixes — and a lot of critics will say they’re not Martinis at all. However, they’re clearly Martini-related, and clearly variations on the old standard. So don’t be a grouch, and just enjoy a damn drink.

Now, since I talk a lot in this post, we’ll just get started.

 

Vodka Martini
-2 oz Vodka
-1 oz Lillet Blanc
-Lemon Twist (or Green Olive(s) if you must)

The Vodka Martini

This is the drink that a lot of Martini aficionados love to hate — and it’s why they hate James Bond. You see, back in the sixties, Smirnoff had product placement rights in the James Bond films. Therefore, Jame Bond was sure to order Vodka Martinis — with Smirnoff, of course — instead drinking both Martinis with gin and Martinis with Vodka, as the agent drank in Ian Flemming’s novels.

This helped to popularize the Vodka Martini, and vodka eventually became the most popular spirit in the United States. In fact, today the Vodka Martini is more popular than the traditional Martini with gin. This fact enrages Martini lovers everywhere. I, myself, am pretty indifferent.

You see, vodka is a neutral spirit. This means that it has little to no taste. The same things we value in other spirits is exactly what we don’t want in vodka. However, the trend with Martinis has been to make them drier and drier, meaning less and less vermouth, and in extreme cases no vermouth (this is a trend I think is dumb). Since vodka is neutral, this means that a dry Vodka Martini results in a virtually flavorless drink. Therefore, a lot of Martini lovers despise the Vodka Martini.

However, I stand by my belief that if you think vodka is flavorless, you’ve never tasted vodka. That being said, vodka is still extremely neutral, but different vodkas are still different. They have different mouth feels, different textures, and different levels of smoothness. Most importantly, though, most vodkas are not completely neutral. Many have subtle and delicate notes in their flavor, such as citrus, floral, peppery, spicy, anise, fruity, nutty, sweet, herbal, and astringent notes. The aroma also factors in when experiencing a vodka (as with any spirit), and the aroma covers an even greater ground.

If you’re interested in really tasting different vodkas and all of their subtle notes, chill a bottle of premium vodka in the freezer for a few hours, and then pour two ounces into a glass and sip it — no ice. Having it freezer-cold will bring out the right texture, and will allow you to notice the delicate flavor in the right context.

But, back to the drink at hand. Despite what its detractors will tell you, a Vodka Martini can be a very good drink. Try it, and if you like, don’t let the man tear you down. Just raise a glass in honor of 007, and tell critics to go to Hell.

You’ll want a smooth, premium vodka. Nothing too medicinal or harsh. I recommend Lillet Blanc instead of vermouth because I prefer the taste of it for a Vodka Martini, but feel free to use dry vermouth instead — it’s easier to find, in any case. Either way, though, you should make it wet. You’ll notice that I used a 2-to-1 ratio for this drink, which is pretty wet by most standards. Since vodka is neutral, using more of the balancing agent is appropriate so that you get more flavor with you drink. You’re free to try a drier version, but this is probably a more enjoyable version.

So, shake (like I said on Wednesday, I shake my Vodka Martinis) the liquid ingredients with ice and strain it into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lemon twist. Use green olives for a garnish if you prefer, but with vodka, I think a lemon twist makes for a better drink.

Now let’s get a little bit more unorthodox.

 

Black Devil
-2 oz Light Rum
-1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
-Black Olive(s)

The Black Devil

This is essentially a rum Martini. If you like rum — and I don’t mean if you like rum as an ingredient in huge mixed drinks, but really like the taste of rum — you’ll likely enjoy this. For me, rum isn’t that much of a sipping liquor. But, once again, to each their own. If you’re a rum sipper, you should definitely try this. Jack Sparrow would be proud

It also seems like they have Martini-garnishing down to a science. The green olive is fantastic for gin, and the black olive is fantastic for rum. In fact, the black olive is just awesome for a Martini with rum, which is interesting, considering that rum is a little bit more robust than gin, and black olives are a little bit less sharp than green olives. But, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The Black Devil works with the black olive (hence the name), so I suggest you try it with that.

However, making this drink with light rum still leave it a little bit insipid. Light rum is perfect for most mixed drinks — it’s lighter in flavor, and therefore it lends a little bit of rum flavor to the drink without overpowering it. However, with a Martini-style drink, the flavor of the liquor is what’s important, and it’s what’s emphasized. So, light rum doesn’t work out as well as other rums. But I’ll get to that in a second.

To make a Black Devil, stir the rum and vermouth with ice until cold, and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the black olive(s).

Now, let’s use a better rum.

 

Rum Martini
-2 oz Añejo Rum
-1/2/ oz Dry Vermouth
-Black Olive(s)

The Rum Martini

This is the same drink as above, but with a higher quality rum. For the uninitiated, añejo means aged. Aging the rum makes a more robust and flavorful rum, better for sipping than for mixing drinks. But since a Martini is a mixed drink that heavily capitalizes on the flavor of the base liquor, it’s very much appropriate to use añejo rum for this cocktail.

I’m still not that much of a rum connoisseur, but I know you’re all out there. If you love rum, try this drink, and you’ll have something to order at bars to make you feel classy (just be sure to explain to the bartender what you want).

In any case, I use Barcardi 8, which worked wonderfully, but use whatever añejo rum you prefer — but you could do worse.

So, stir the liquid ingredients with ice, and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the black olive(s) and enjoy it if you like rum. This is what sophisticated pirates drink, don’t you know?

On to the last drink — and quite possibly the most important drink in context of James Bond mixology.

 

Vesper
-3 oz Gordon’s Gin (94 proof if you can find it)
-1 oz Vodka (preferably 100 proof and made from grain)
-1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
-Lemon Twist

The Vesper

This is it. This is the ultimate James Bond cocktail. This is the drink that was introduced by James Bond in how the novel Casino Royale, and since then it’s become a drink in its own right.

This is how Bond orders it in the novel which is basically how Daniel Craig orders it in the movie Casino Royale:

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?”

Bond also goes on to mention to the bartender that he ought to use a vodka made from grain instead of potatoes next time. In any case, the Vesper, named for 007’s betraying love interest, has a lot of alcohol befitting the best secret agent British intelligence has ever known.

Now is where I talk about alcohol proofs. Today, the standard for all spirits is 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume. But, when Ian Flemming was first writing about the Vesper, gin was 94 proof and vodka was 100 proof. Therefore, if you want to be super-authentic, you aught to use appropriate liquors (these is completely optional, by the way).

Gordon’s has a 94 proof version on the American market, but the 80 proof version is much more common. You can also use a different brand, since Gordon’s is pretty low shelf, anyway, but that’s up to you. Bond orders it with Gordon’s, so I used Gordon’s. 100 proof vodka is fairly common, but 007 also prefers grain vodka over potato vodka. I used Absolut 100, but there are other brands that will meet these two criteria.

Also, Kina Lillet has been reformulated since this recipe was introduced. Your best choice now is Lillet Blanc.

Anyway, this drink is the perfect drink to make you feel good. It’s super-strong (which makes it a bad choice for my last drink of the night, but I’m a committed individual), and one will get you buzzed, or drunk depending on your tolerance (we don’t all have the iron livers of a secret agent).

Taste-wise, James Bond seems to have known what he was doing. The neutrality of the vodka helps to smooth out the roughness of the gin, and the Lillet Blanc is a delicious substitution for the vermouth. The Vesper is a fictional drink, but it’s also pretty damn good.

So, shake (we shake because 007 says to) the liquid ingredients with ice and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist, drink it, and feel like a secret agent.

One note on the glass: Bond orders the drink in a champagne goblet, as at the time cocktail glasses were much smaller, and couldn’t have held his gigantic drink. However, cocktail glasses have gotten progressively bigger over time, and as such champagne goblets (which are infinitely inferior to to champagne flutes), fell out of favor. Use whichever you have access to.

 

Denouement
I’m drunk. James Bond is a pretty rad dude. Martinis are awesome drinks. I’m not writing anymore.

Have a good time at the movies. Stay classy, Internet.


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