The Ugly Duckling
Jonathan J Ellison is a bartender from Baker Street in Preston, UK. With lockdown underway, he's explored the story of the Vesper Martini and his preferred recipe. He's entitled the piece The Ugly Duckling. Here it is.
Words by: Jonathan J Ellison, Baker Street
After I serve a guest a gin martini, I follow with the suggestion of orange bitters and a titbit about how the martini began. Now that I have my guests trust I will either offer a Martinez or a vesper, leaning on the latter. I move the guest towards a vesper for two reasons; the first being that I can create a lasting impression on my guest and two if they ask for it from another bartender, either it will be made badly or an arrogant bartender will refuse to make it.
To modern bartenders, 'vesper' simply means to shake a martini and this is where a great line in a book turns generations of bartenders against a drink. Stirring the vesper increases your control over its dilution and in turn allows the flavours and textures of carefully selected ingredients to harmonise. So now that you know I don't shake it, I'll anger you even more...no to dry gin and Italian over French vermouth.
The classic recipe for a vesper is 3 of dry gin, 2 of vodka and 1 of French vermouth and while I keep the measurements the same, the ingredients I use make all the difference.
For the base spirit I use Jensen's Old Tom. Now as most will probably know, old tom is a sweetened form of gin. Jensen's is created from a recipe dating back to the 1840's and has juniper in abundance with pleasant floral and herbal undertones. Now I know you are all angered by this sweeter style but stay with me.
For me, there are a few reasons to use vodka in a cocktail. You either want to up the ABV without affecting the flavour; you want to 'dilute' one flavour without adding additional flavours or in this case, to add texture to a drink. This comes in the form of Black Cow, made from milk it is a silky smooth English vodka. While I could, and do, drink black cow straight from the freezer it lends its unique texture to cocktails that may only be recreated from the use of a milk punch.
Ian Fleming originally called for Kina Lillet, not strictly a vermouth due to the use of quinine as a bittering agent instead of the various herbs in other aromatized wines of this type. Now with the stronger, sweeter flavours coming from the gin, Cocchi Americano matches the old tom and leaves the drink with a slightly bitter, spiced after taste.
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass, express your lemon zest over the surface of the drink and place on the side of the glass.
Now while I have undoubtedly annoyed a large majority of modern day bartenders and bond fans alike, I hope a few of you at least consider stirring your vesper martinis.
Follow Jonathan J Ellison on Instagram @gentlemanbartender