We won’t say no to a perfectly stirred martini — or its cousin, the Vesper — in any season. But when we discover a beautiful seasonal adaptation, that’s enough to get us breaking out the mixing glass. And the “Harvest Vesper Bell,” from Alexandra Kuechler-Caffall of Little Park in New York, fits the bill perfectly.
“I love this drink in the fall because it’s the kind of transition cocktail you need to help take you from the Martinis and G&T’s of the summer, into the richer and more robust cocktails of the colder months like the Negroni or Martinez,“ says Kuechler-Caffall.
It’s a riff on the Vesper, similar to a martini, but with its own irresistible backstory. “The history of the Vesper cocktail doesn’t begin in a historic drinks manual, but actually James Bond,” Kuechler-Caffall explains. “In the 1953 James Bond novel Casino Royale, Bond asks for gin, vodka, and Lillet, shaken until very cold and garnished with a thin slice of lemon peel. In the next chapter, he names the cocktail a Vesper (after the stunning Vesper Lynd).”
Thus: vodka and gin, with a good measure of the aperitif wine Lillet. “The original Vesper calls for Lillet Kina, which is no longer in production,” says Kuechler-Caffall. “So I use the more bold and structured Lillet Rouge.”
In such a simple drink, spirit choice is all-important. She opts for the ultra-premium gin Monkey 47, a favorite of mixologists nationally and internationally. “They use 47 different botanicals when making their gin,” says Kuechler-Caffall, “making for a complex spirit with a range of notes to highlight in the cocktail. Monkey 47 has a quintessential gin profile but also beautiful citrus and spice notes, making this a wonderful gin for mixing drinks.”
Among those botanicals: Freshly crushed lingonberries, which, while not obvious in the gin itself, can be brought out with other ingredients. That’s where the Lillet Rouge comes in. “The red berry notes of both Lillet Rouge and Monkey 47 feel well suited for the holiday season,” she says. “And the tannins add a lot of depth and help to bring out the long finish of the gin.“
Finally: an orange peel studded with cloves, and a crowning piece of star anise, to finish off the cocktail. “The garnish with clove and orange reminds me of the holidays and starts to get your senses firing, even before the first sip,” says Kuechler-Caffall.
With just three ingredients in simple proportion, it’s easy to stir up a round for holiday parties. Just don’t forget the garnish — not only festively ornamental, but nostalgic and aromatic.
Harvest Vesper Bell
1.5 ounces Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin
0.75 ounces Absolut Elyx
0.75 Lillet Rouge
Instructions: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until very well-chilled. Pour into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist studded with cloves, and a piece of star anise.
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