Spiritual Sundays: Don’t Fear the Vermouth, Volume 2.5

This week: Cocchi Americano, and two cocktails that use this aperitif.

The Vesper:

First off, Cocchi Americano isn’t really a vermouth, it’s a bittersweet aperitif. It’s also the closest thing we have to the original recipe for Kina Lillet; it’s definitely closer than Lillet Blanc, which lacks the quinine which Kina Lillet was named for. But while it’s not technically a vermouth, in exploring the Martini, its use as such comes to light.

Most people know James Bonds famous martini: Shaken, not stirred. For the most part, that’s the limit of what people know about a martini. Gin? Vodka? Vermouth? Bitters? Eh, Shaken. Not stirred. With like, three or four olives.

A tangent: in Don’t Fear the Vermouth, Volume 2, I wrote that a proper martini has vermouth. This remains true. However, it should also be noted that a proper Martini is never shaken, ever. It’s stirred, over ice, and strained in a cocktail glass with a lemon twist. Also: A martini is Gin (or vodka, if you must) and vermouth, hopefully with bitters. It takes a lemon twist, orange twist, cherry (if sweet) or olive (if you like them and it’s dry). It contains nothing else. From here on out, please abolish from your vocabulary the terms “Blank” Martini and “blank”tini. Examples: Chocolate, Pomegranate, Green Tea, Apple, etc… An exception to this rule is naming the spirit (once again, Gin or Vodka) used in the martini. Examples: Tanqueray, Aviation, Vodka, Grey Goose, Ransom Gin (a favorite of two of my managers) etc…

So we can blame Mr. Bond for this particular crime against the martini. However, and this brings us to the point of this post, we can also thank him, or rather, his progenitor, Ian Fleming, for the creation of the first, and only good, shaken, not stirred, “martini”: The Vesper.

The Vesper was a completely obscure cocktail known only by a handful of bartenders and enthusiasts for a long time, mostly thanks to Ted Haigh, aka Dr. Cocktail, and his book Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails (get it, it’s fantastic). However, when Casino Royale came out in 2006, the drink was rediscovered by a larger public.

The recipe which bond orders in Casino Royale is nearly identical to the recipe in the original novel. Later, he names the drink Vesper after the lead romantic interest.

Now, Bond orders it made with Kina Lillet, a vermouth which, as I said above, is now gone, but Cocchi Americano is apparently the best substitute for it. Last December, while Becky was out of town for Christmas break and I was in town working, I got the film from Netflix, and enjoyed a Vesper cocktail with some olives, rosemary crackers, and feta while watching the movie. It was fantastic.

The Recipe:

3 ounces of dry gin (I used Plymouth. Hendricks would be fantastic)

1 ounce of vodka (I use Luksosowa)

1/2 ounce of Cocchi Americano

Break the cardinal rule and shake the whole thing over ice, serve in a large chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a large swath of lemon. Everything about this drink is big. Drink carefully.

The Corpse Reviver #2

The other, more well-known, use of Cocchi Americano (or Lillet Blanc, as the case often is) is the Corpse Reviver #2. As you might expect by the name, there is also a Corpse Reviver #1, but that drink is made far less often, and the recipe for #2 is often simply referred to as a Corpse Reviver.

Originally found in the Savoy Cocktail Book as a hangover remedy,  the CP#2 (don’t call it that) faded into obscurity for a while, and then, like the Vesper, found its way back into the spotlight thanks to Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits... Recently I’ve seen it popping up on numerous cocktail lists; it seems to be increasingly popular these days (as does the French 75, but that’s another post). However, on every list I’ve seen it on, the drink is still made with Lillet Blanc. While still a wonderful drink, I feel that making it with the Cocchi Americano strengthens its complexity, adding a level of bitterness thanks to the quinine present in the vermouth.

The trick with a Corpse Reviver #2, like with a Negroni or Last Word, is to have perfectly equal parts, except for the drop, dash, or light rinse of absinthe or herbsaint (with most herbsaint, you can get away with a rinse. With a stronger absinthe it can overwhelm, and ruin, the drink).

The Recipe:

1 part gin (I chose Plymouth)

1 part Cocchi Americano

1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 part Cointreau, or other triple sec. (Cointreau is the best for this drink. I used Harlequin)

1 dash, drop, or rinse of absinthe or absinthe substitute, based on taste and the strength of your choice.

Shake the whole thing over ice, double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a quality cocktail cherry (skip the cheap maraschino kind, please).

That’s it for this installment of Spiritual Sundays. Thanks!

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3 responses to “Spiritual Sundays: Don’t Fear the Vermouth, Volume 2.5

  1. I guess I can now skip writing that particular blog entry. You’ve covered it very well and anything I had to say would be redundant.

    Still, I do prefer much more robust gin in both of the cocktails. Having so many options is one of the best parts of cocktails.

  2. Bond ordered his martinis shaken, not stirred to dilute the alcohol so he could drink and not get drunk…or so the myth goes. Do you confirm this myth, Alex?

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