“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?”
Ah, the Vesper, made in “a deep champagne goblet” at the instruction of James Bond.
The fictional spy’s beverage preferences always pop up when a new Bond film is released, so it’s time to again look at his recipes in relation to the recent debut of “Quantum of Solace,” starring Daniel Craig in a tale that takes up where his “Casino Royale” flick left off, cocktails and all.
The problem is, we no longer can make a Vesper according to writer Ian Fleming’s original specifications when he wrote the “Casino Royale” novel back in 1953. That’s because Kina Lillet doesn’t exist anymore, unless you happen to come across an old bottle that’s been hanging around somewhere.
However, I can vouch for Lillet Blanc. The herbal French aperitif wine shares some botanical properties with a good gin, but has less of a palate-punching effect. The original Kina Lillet was a bit more bitter because it was laced with quinine (Kina refers to the plant that produced quinine), so a drop or two of bitters might make your Vesper taste more like the original.
Lillet is far more popular in Europe than in the U.S. It has been around since 1887, originating in France’s Bordeaux where it still is made. It was created by brothers Paul and Raymond Lillet, distillers and merchants.
It is a blend of 85 percent wine and 15 percent fruit liqueurs soaked for 8-12 weeks in fruit alcohol, primarily made from various strains of oranges. That product is matured in oak casks.
Anyone who sampled Lillet before the late ’80s and not since will find it quite different. Working with the Oenpology Institute at Bordeaux University, the Lillet makers updated the classic white version in 1987 and the red in 1990, decreasing the bitterness and sugar quantity and concentrating more on the fruit, thus lightening the product.
This makes Lillet more than simply something to add to a cocktail. In Europe it is most often served n a cocktail glass, slightly chilled, with the traditional orange slice garnish.
Of course, as with most iconic things, Lillet wasn’t always treated so nicely by the movie industry. The cannibalistic killer Hannibal Lecter, in “Silence of the Lambs,” drinks Lillet.
If that doesn’t turn you off, you can find Lillet at any decently stocked wine and spirits shop for about $16 for the 750ml bottle.