The recipe for a Vesper, a lesson in technique.
A friend of mine asked me “the Zig Zag Vesper: I adore Murray’s version. I don’t suppose you have any inkling how he does it? I’m trying to recreate as closely as possible on a trip to Los Angeles. (Otherwise we’d just plop ourselves down at the bar at Zig Zag.)”
I quickly responded:
“I’m sure, he makes it 1.5 oz gin, .5 vodka and between .5 and .25 Lillet Blanc, the drink is traditionally shaken, but true form would stir such a drink, I don’t know which he does. Then it gets s a heavy lemon zest. If you don’t zest the lemon over the glass, you are fucking up” “There are supposedly no “good” bars in la, so good luck, also my favorite way to make the drink is to use a very citric or high proof gin like martin miller’s, a vegetal style potato vodka like luksosowa or Chopin and I always go heavy on the Lillet, even though the recipe says “splash” that was when drinks were smaller, so I feel that .5 is acceptable” “And that is the vesper, bond says shake it for texture, though that is the wrong procedure, you’ll find most bartenders shake everything anyway. So really that’s one that you can’t go wrong except that you must shake it furiously if you shake and stir gently if you stir, but now I am ranting” “Does that make sense?”
I thought that was better than a glance at the Internet, but she had another question:
“Basically. I’m actually buying the liquor–so no limits from the barkeeps, just my own finesse. A couple of recipes mention bitters, etc. I’m assuming ski it? And I can go with a stir, but I’m not totally sure what that means.”
I then responded:
“It 2 am, frankly I’m drunk, tomorrow is my first day off in 16 days. I’ll explain it very thoroughly tomorrow”
In my defense I just opened a new bar called Naga in the re-opening restaurant Chantanee and I was tired. Upon awakening I thought to myself, “hey Brett Favre, how to you throw a football?” He seems a down to earth guy, I reckon he’d say: “I just cock my arm, see where I want it to go and throw it.” This is true for Brett Favre, perhaps a more in-depth answer would be: “well, Andrew, I’ve been in the NFL for 17 years, played for South Miss before that, and high school ball before that, and frankly, I am a professional quarterback, its what I do, almost half my life has been dedicated to being good at that one thing.” And with Brett Favre’s inspirational ghost sitting on my shoulder, I wrote this back:
Here is everything that one would need to know about how to make a vesper and the proper technique, seriously, this is everything that goes through my head when I make a drink. A vesper is a cocktail that needs to be strained in a chilled cocktail glass, a martini glass is a glass with a martini in it, a martini is a combination of gin and vermouth and sometimes-orange bitters. A martini needs to be strained into a chilled cocktail glass. What I’m trying to say, is that there is only one instance when is proper to call a glass a martini glass, that is when it has said cocktail, is indeed strained into a cocktail glass. A chilled cocktail glass is essential, otherwise, you go to the trouble of carefully marrying booze with cold, and only to warm is again when you put it in the glass. Chill glasses in the freezer or fridge, or quick chill them as we say by filling them with ice and water. There are two ways to execute the vesper, the way in the book and the way that a real bartender would make it.
Book: shaken real: stirred.
This has nothing to do with not shaking vermouth or gin; it has everything to do with what ingredients are used. When all ingredients are clear, aka, booze, the drink must be gently stirred as to keep the texture silky smooth and free of air bubbles.
Whenever you mix in a juice or syrup, the ingredients must be shaken. While every drink need not be shaken furiously, you should shake until the shaker frosts and try to get this done as soon as possible (by shaking hard). But understand that I routinely make whipped cream in a shaker by adding cream sugar and ice and shaking until the ice is gone, my point is if you shake too long the ice will be the water in your drink. For stirring: get a mixing glass (again, when it is filled with beer we call it a pint glass), fill it with cracked ice, crack the ice by hand just before you drop it into the glass.
For Stirring: Cracking ice on stirred drinks maximized the surface area of ice to booze but you still get the cold from the ice of the fresh ice. When stirring, stir for at least 30 seconds, and when stirring think of the booze as stationary and that you are moving the ice through it. When stirring, understand that the point is to introduce no air into the drink. When straining from glass, you use a julep strainer; place it inside the glass and strain into the chilled cocktail glass
For Shaking: get a Boston shaker that is the one that is glass and metal. To use a cobbler shaker, a 3 piece metal shaker, is an art that I’ll go out on a limb and say that hardly any American bartender understands, let alone the novice (the Japanese have mastered this art, it is called the hard shake). That being said, cobbler shakers are pretty and it’s nice to have one around. A Boston shaker however is a mixing glass and a tin that fits over it, build the drink over cubed ice (it will break when you shake it) attach the tin to the top firmly and shake with 2 hands, one holding the end of each part of the mixer. Never shake a Boston shaker with the glass end pointing at a person. When you have formed the frost on the tin turn the shaker so that all of the drink is in the tin with the butt of the glass pointing up. To remove the glass twist it, if this doesn’t work, look at the space between the openings of the tin and where the frost is forming, tap in the middle of those two lines and the shaker will open. Never open it upside down, when shaking a drink, you strain from metal and never tap the lip of the tin on the bar to open it, aside from being bad form, it is pathetic, and when I see a man do it, I wish him dead. But I digress, when straining for metal (only after shaking) use a Hawthorne strainer. Don’t let the drink sit too long and don’t pour it into something else first (you loose the bubbles), the point of shaking to quote harry Cradock is to “consume the cocktail while all of the bubbles are still laughing at you.”
The zest: use a channel knife or a y peeler to cut a zest above the glass, so that the oils spring onto the surface of the drink and the glass itself. When using a channel knife, twice around the lemon is proper, the y peeler, and the length of the lemon. Twist the zest over that glass and drop it in.
My favorite way to make the drink is to use a very citric or high proof gin like martin miller’s, a vegetal style potato vodka like luksosowa or Chopin and I always go heavy on the Lillet, even though the recipe says “splash” that was when drinks were smaller, so I feel that .5 is acceptable its important to use Lillet Blanc and keep it fresh. Lillet rouge is a clone of Dubbonet much as Dubbonet Blanc is a clone of Lillet Blanc. Lillet is wine based and will go bad and visibly oxidize at room temperature; after it is opened it needs to be refrigerated.
Simply put by a my Boston style bar guide:
Vesper Cocktail Recipe
1.5 oz Gin
.5 oz Vodka
.25 Lillet Blanc
Twist of lemon
Strain into a cocktail glass