Vespers

March 21, 2011 · 5 comments

The Vesper

I used to be a Catholic altar boy, long enough ago that one Mass every Sunday was still recited in Latin. The ecclesiastical Latin I had to memorize back then has been more useful than I expected, first in my biology training (learning how to read Linnaean taxonomy), later in my appreciation of classical music (Bach wrote an awful lot of masses and cantatas). Occasionally, however, it leads me astray, as when I saw an article about the craze for Vespers. Why, I thought, would foodies care about evening prayers? That’s how I was trained to think: Vespers was the seventh step in the Liturgy of the Hours (Matins – midnight, Lauds – 3 AM, Prime – 6 AM, Terce – 9 M, Sext – noon, None – 3 PM, Vespers – 6 PM, and Compline – 9 PM).

Of course, the article was about a famous drink, invented by James Bond in Casino Royale:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc7n7yyXWsU

I saw the movie and promptly forgot about the drink until last October, when I was served this at Journeyman:

I took a sip, asked the drinks director “Is this a Vesper?,” and then spent the next five minutes geeking out over the proper formulation of the Ian Fleming classic. In the movie, Bond’s mentioning Kina Lilet as an ingredient is an anachronism, since that beverage had been discontinued in 1986. My helpful mixologist told me he substituted Apertivo Cocchi Americano, which has a similar flavor profile.

She Who Must Be Obeyed likes the occasional cocktail, so I thought I’d mix up some Vespers for the two of us. I had gin (Tanqueray) and vodka (Absolut), but no Cocchi, so I embarked on what became a four-hour search for a bottle. I found one store that carried Lilet – more specifically Lilet Blanc – which I bought as a backup:

My last stop was my friendly neighborhood cocktail supply shop, The Boston Shaker. When I asked if he knew where I could find Cocchi Americano, he smiled and asked “Making Vespers?,” then pointed me to a store a few block away, where I found that obscure object of desire:

I returned home, dusted off the cocktail shaker, and whipped up a batch, which tasted as I remembered.

We had only one each, as they’re rather powerful.

“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.

Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

Now I can think of something more exciting that prayers when I hear the name Vesper. And I’m not talking about Eva Green.

5 comments

Adina March 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm

The prayer was my first thought too–even though I grew up Jewish, I’ve read a lot of stories about Catholic people.

Kina Lilet wasn’t an anachronism when Ian Fleming wrote about it in 1953; I’m a bit surprised that something like that survived into the movie.

David March 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I do’t mind the anachronism surviving. One could argue that an exclusive casino might keep rare bottles to cater to the whims of its guests. More importantly, not changing the reference kept the script true to Fleming’s novel. Here’s a great article about the original script for the movie.

Andrea March 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm

You could have come to Central Bottle for the Cocchi.

David March 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Central Bottle was the first place I tried. They didn’t have it. I wound up finding it at Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square. Go figure.

Andrea March 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm

as in centralbottle.com

Shameless plug

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