Vesper Martini. (Recipe below)
Vesper Martini. (Recipe below)
Image: 123rf

There is something unique about your parent’s siblings, they can fit in the mould of a parental or guardian role as easily as they can become your best friend or confidante. I moved into my aunt and uncle’s house as my recently graduated independence was becoming intolerable and my fledgling adulthood needed familial affection. The both of them have made my life immeasurably more pleasurable with their quirks and intricacies and I adore every lazy Sunday with them.

Sundays usually consist of my uncle going to the driving range and coming back in the late morning, enthused and passionate from the boys-gang of golfers and with arms laden with bizarre Italian delicacies and some obscure idea of how the family (consisting of just me and my aunt) should bond today.

My aunt starts her day with a 20km walk with the boss babes of the northern suburbs — a bunch of terrifying, gorgeous and outspoken pillars of industry who traipse through the suburbs in a gaggle of giggles and long-distance speed walking. Upon her arrival home, I am woken up Roy Orbison, Pavarotti or Lady Gaga blasting from speakers to signal that it is time to earn my keep through charm and my exceptional tea-making skills.

Last Sunday, my uncle arrived home, but instead of his usual golf witticisms and lyrical waxing on the benefits of Japanese shafts, the theme was cocktails and espionage. Having recently bought the watch of a certain British spy, he is now seriously interested in making sure that he represents Fleming’s ethos to a tee. With Lady Gaga now singing the score of a Bond film, he produces bottles of vodka, gin, jars of capers and olives, a bag of lemons and a bottle of dry vermouth. Family Bond-ing is set to begin, except on this Sunday, with coupes, hard liquor, and two architects ready to show their wayward copywriting nephew who is the coolest creative. It is time to emulate 007.

The Vesper Martini, named after the gorgeous and ultimately back-stabbing Vesper Lynd is a combination of gin, vodka, vermouth and your own choice of how dirty the rest of your day shall be. In the 1953 novel, the first of Ian Fleming’s legacy, James Bond issues strict instructions to the bartender, “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?” The martini came about in the roaring 20s as a gin and vermouth drink, proportionally two-to-one.

As time progressed, martinis became drier, meaning that the proportion of vermouth decreased which was exacerbated by the easily bootlegged availability of gin and the rarity of vermouth. The iconic Churchill (yeah, that Churchill) martini requires mixing gin (preferably British) in a glass full of ice, adding a single olive, and occasionally glancing in the direction of vermouth while enjoying the finished cocktail. The process is also said to be accompanied by a sly bow in the direction of France, but I could find no proof of any of this actually happening besides old men recounting this story while hunched over the bar.

The gin’s botanicals are subdued by the vodka while the vermouth adds a bittersweet edge and shaking increases the dilution of the drink

A few droplets of brine or a garnished olive make the martini dirty, and these additives can also extend to a dash of bitters, cocktail onions, capers, or syrup, all of which are entirely up to preference. The martini family now includes vodka as a base spirit as well as the spirited double whammy of Fleming.

In my days as a hapless mixologist, a glorified bartender with a bit of flair, it was drilled into me that you should stir a spirit-only cocktail — a martini with ice shards is a crime. Yet, nothing is more satisfying than getting your hands frozen on the shaker in mere seconds. To follow the status-quo, a mixing glass loaded with ice and a fine strained is much easier, albeit lacking theatrics.

On this fatal last day of the weekend we went with Absolut vodka, Martini Blanc and Gordon’s — we may not have ‘got it’ to his specifications, but the day was about forgetting the week and hopefully not encountering any double agents. My uncle armed with the 007 watch, my aunt worrying about failing my mother in parental duties, and me just glad that I have a hall pass to drink in the day, you only live twice — got into it. Bottles were lined up, mixing glasses, coupes and shakers were dusted off and jars were pried open.

The gin’s botanicals are subdued by the vodka while the vermouth adds a bittersweet edge and shaking increases the dilution of the drink — which is preferable when drinking three alcohols with your aunt and uncle. Drinking and making cocktails should be a social and experimental process allowing for drunk discourse, reinventing recipes and finding a drink that you enjoy. While I was a bartender and thought mixology was quite a serious art, budgeting and accessibility has proved to me that drinking is as flexible as it is enjoyable; so use the resources you have and enjoy the process and this bare-bones cocktail imbued with bootlegging, Bond and British Bulldogs.

Once again, you’re making your own cocktail, so fiddle around until you find something that works for you — remember that James Bond now drinks Heineken.

THE VESPER MARTINI

Vesper Martini.
Vesper Martini.
Image: 123rf

What you'll need:

  • 60ml gin
  • 20ml vodka
  • 10ml white vermouth
  • Ice
  • 1 strip of lemon

STEP 1

  • Pour the ingredients into a shaker, add ice and then shake for 10 or so seconds.

STEP 2

  • Strain the shaken cocktail into coupe glasses, double strain if you’re finnicky about ice shards.

STEP 3

  • Spray the oils of the lemon strip over the glass and then place within.

STEP 4

  • Die Another Day.

 

Dolin Vermouth De Chambéry Blanc 750ml — R229.99

Grey Goose 750ml — R489.00

Star Of Bombay London Dry Gin 750ml — R459

Riedel Veritas Coupe/Cocktail Glasses — R1,100

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