I recently had the very welcome opportunity to visit Virgin Atlantic's Clubhouse at JFK. I'd expected upscale hotel-ish food and drinks, but they did far better than that. The drinks menu featured a decent selection of wines, and I started my visit with a glass of Mumm NV Champagne. But when it was dinnertime, I decided to switch to a cocktail to accompany my (very good) steak with chevre mashed potatoes and haricots verts.
Here's where Virgin's promotional tie-in with the James Bond franchise has paid off: In 2006's Casino Royale, Bond orders his signature variation on the Martini, almost exactly word-for-word from the 1953 novel:
"A dry martini," he said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."
"Just a moment. 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?"
"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
"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."
Later, of course, Bond christens it "the Vesper", after Vesper Lynd. It's something of an anachronism in the movie, though of course not the book: Kina Lillet was reformulated in the 1980s and is now sold as Lillet Blanc, with decidedly less quinine. And, as David Wondrich has pointed out, Gordon's gin was originally sold at 94 proof, but is now sold at 80. (He offers an update, made with Tanqueray, Stoli 100, and a smidgen of quinine powder.)
In last year's Quantum of Solace, Bond and the Vesper both return, although the drink's name isn't spoken; Bond gives the recipe to a bartender on board a Virgin Atlantic flight.
And, the Vesper leads the cocktail list at Virgin's Clubhouse lounge, and went down quite nicely with my steak. They serve them in appropriately smallish cocktail glasses, and it was a very well-made, balanced drink. (Virgin makes theirs with six parts Bombay Sapphire, two parts Grey Goose, and one part Lillet Blanc, stirred and served with a twist.) Yes, I was a little surprised to see it stirred, but I think Virgin was going for clarity over accuracy with that decision.
The remainder of the cocktail list was all over the place, from a good-looking Margarita to gin or vodka Martinis, and a large selection of sweeter drinks such as the "Sex in the Lounge" (vodka, Midori, Chambord, peach schnapps, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice), a huckleberry Cosmopolitan (made with huckleberry-infused vodka and oddly lacking lime juice), an apple "martini", and the "Virgin's Suite Dream" (Bombay Sapphire, lemon juice, cassis, Chambord, raspberries, and simple syrup, all topped with Champagne.)
I stuck to the Vesper, and after three or so, I wanted to slay bad guys and jet off to exotic locales. (Alas, it was just the AirTrain and the subway for me. But Queens is plenty exotic.)
I must say I like Virgin Atlantic's cocktail tie-in better than this proposed cocktail for US Airways:
- Two shots of Grey Goose
- One splash cold water
Shake hard, but set down gently. Serve up, garnished with an inflatable life vest.