This week, I visited the one and only James Bond bar in Amsterdam, which is called Vesper (of course).
*I’m Party with a Local’s Head of Content and a big fan of Ian Fleming by the way.
For those who don’t know the story, Vesper Lynd is a secret agent from Fleming’s first book “Casino Royale” and the only woman Bond ever falls in love with. In the novel, the author creates a cocktail recipe that James Bond names “Vesper martini” (which he drinks ‘shaken, not stirred’). “After Vesper’s murder, Bond never has the same drink again, and also, never falls in love”, started the real local from Amsterdam, bartender Robbert.
And actually, to be more precise, Robbert is not any ordinary bar guy, he is a cocktail magician! As soon as you sit on the tall bar chairs at Vesper, he gives you a glass of cucumber water to start a night and, with a charming smile, starts a casual conversation asking about your favourite spirits and ingredients.
I named tequila, cachaça, salt, tomato juice, limes, chilies… I like my drinks salty and spicy and strong. Robbert listens carefully, considers all the customer’s desires. But of course, as a magician with the background in a different type of magic than Hogwarts, he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to surprise you with a totally different invention.
So he started the night with Dr. Drunk – Leblon cachaça Wray & Nephews overproof rum, Pastis, freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, homemade grenadine and a drop of Angostura bitters – all this served in a Ernest Hemingway head glass covered with glittered sugar and colourful confetti. Ah, and of course a little paper umbrella, probably to remind me of sunny Brazil (at the beginning of the night I have mentioned to Robbert that I grew up there).
“Have you actually tried a Vesper Martini, Alex?”, Robbert asked me in a sort of a cheeky way. “No, I haven’t!”, I answered curiously. “But after the beautiful Bond story behind the drink, I would lo…!”. I haven’t even finished a sentence, when I saw Robbert already filling up my glass with Tanqueray gin, Ketel One vodka and Lillet Blanc aperitif wine. Guys, that’s the strongest bloody drink I have ever tried in my life! No wonder it is on the top of Vesper’s ‘Flavourmap’ that is placed in the menu to help you choose between ‘strong’, ‘sour’, ‘mild’ or ‘sweet’ taste for your cocktails. Definitely a true Bond drink! but I am sure that Bond’s Vesper would have preferred something a bit milder.
Pomme di Cello
Robbert got my feeling about the drink just by watching me sipping the mixture timidly. Without waiting for too long, he was already making something else… “This is actually my own creation – Pomme di Cello! It’s like a Limoncello, but with a grapefruit instead of a lemon and a dash of prosecco”, he explained. After watching my drink being laced with a grapefruit zest, I had a sip and… instantly had a crush on this cocktail, probably like James Bond on Vesper, lol. No, but seriously, what a perfect combination of sweetish-sour refreshing taste with some pretty serious bubbles! A perfect drink for the summer, that has finally landed in Amsterdam!
Robbert must have thought that I still didn’t believe enough in his magic, as he pulled out a gun like real secret agent – a smoke-making machine and a big glass jar, and told me to get ready for the show. I was excited and pretty drunk after 3 cocktails already (it’s pity that I was always forgetting about that cucumber water that you were supposed to drink in between the drinks, to pretend you are sober). So, in a glimpse of an eye, the magician had already prepared a perfect bourbon-based Manhattan. And the glass was ready to get smoked! Placed under the jar, it slowly got filled with milky fog that smelled like cherry. But the taste wasn’t milky at all. Strong and bitter for the real fans of a fantastic and magical version of a classic drink.
The bartender placed one more drink in front of me. It was very pretty: a metal glass topped with ice and decorated with a big piece of pineapple and some fresh thyme. I was more than happy to see this exotic beauty right by my side. But it wasn’t until I gave it my first sip… Man, you can really feel the Kentucky Bourbon sliding all the way down to your intestines! A good option for the real stallions, but I’m more of champagne kind of girl :).
This drink is not on the menu. As Robbert has explained, it’s on request only. Well, I didn’t request it, but got a chance to taste it anyway :). And this was one of the cocktails that I finished until the last drop. Sweet, mild, fruity, creamy, accompanied by a shot of prosecco. Sexy enough to be called as it is :).
I understand that the Vesper’s cocktail expert, didn’t want me to leave disappointed, so he decided to finalise my degustation with a very popular cocktail, the Hipster Alert. A mixture of a Diplomatico Blanco rum, home made hibiscus syrup, some lemon juice topped up with Oedipus Mama Gaia beer tasted heavenly. If you haven’t accepted a hispter trend yet, this drink will definitely put you on track. ;-)
If you have a look at the latest Vesper’s menu (it changes 4 times a year and looks like a cool newspaper), you will read a phrase of one of the most famous bartenders, Harry Craddock: “Shake a hard as you can. Don’t just rock it, you’re trying to wake it up not send it to sleep”. And that’s exactly what kind of experience you get at Vesper. The 6 guys behind the bar: Robbert, Niels, Jev, Dennis, Laurence and Thomas will make sure you have the best time of your life trying forgotten recipes and contemporary mixes. Just do as I did. Sit at the bar, sip your cucumber water for a better take off and as James Bond would say: “don’t think. Just let it happen.”