In one of cinema’s most memorable mixology moments, James Bond is playing a high stakes poker game and orders a Martini which he christens The Vesper — “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.” But what if that scene had taken place at a bar in Lima, Peru, instead of a casino in Monaco? The answer is this drink, The Peruvian Vesper Martini.
The name and inspiration for this drink came from a recent visit to Comstock Saloon, where I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a Pisco based barkeep’s whimsy from Jared on many a Monday night. Daydreaming of London, I asked for something with Pisco and Gin, and inspired by the unique combination, I came up with this recipe, which is a result of a few nights of experimenting in the Pisco Lab with various ratios, different gins and some of my favorite Pisco varietals.
But the ingredient that fascinated me the most in this drink is the Lillet Blanc, or rather, its history. Grapes from France for the wine, orange peels from Spain, Morocco, and Haiti for the citrus liqueurs, and cinchona liqueur from Peru. Yes, Peru. The Peruvian cinchona bark, used by Quechua indians to cure fevers, and known as the “fever tree,” was used to produce quinine and added to medicinal tonics for treating malaria in South Asia, Africa, and British colonial India.
Now, since quinine is bitter, it comes as no surprise that the British in India added gin to their tonic water to improve the flavor, giving birth to the classic Gin and Tonic cocktail. Which means that Peru, had some part in the creation of the Gin and Tonic. And since Lillet Blanc is a tonic liqueur with cinchona, it also has an important ingredient that is from Peru. So, in the end, I realized that it’s not just the Pisco which makes the Peruvian Vesper Martini profoundly Peruvian, but the history of all of its ingredients. And how often do you drink history?
- 1 1/2 oz. Pisco Acholado
- 1 oz. London Dry Gin
- 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
- dash of orange bitters
- lemon peel for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake to chill, and serve strained in a coupe, garnish with a lemon peel.