Julian Bayuni, Vesper Bar’s new manager invited me to come and taste their latest concept menu called Viva James Bond.. So I did, resulting in a great night, this blogpost and a slight headache the morning after….
Amsterdam’s cocktail bars are stepping up their game, resulting in surprising top notch cocktail menus. These are exciting times, new (hotel) bars and restaurants serving quality drinks are popping up all around town. That being said, the evergreens have to stay focused and keep raising their bar. Vesper Bar has been around for 7 years, and continues to be one of my favourite watering holes.
Even though the theme of their new menu may seem like quite an obvious choice for a bar called Vesper, the ‘Viva James Bond’ collection of Bond Girl themed cocktails is bursting with originality and personality. All signature cocktails are named after Mr. Bond’s former love interests, so besides Vesper Lynd, you can taste Honey Ryder, Pussy Galore, Mayday, Xenia Onatopp, Kissy Suzuki, Octopussy, Chew Mee and many more. Ingredients for each cocktail make playful references to the films that each Bond girl features in, such as honeydew melon vermouth for the Honey Ryder, Blofeld Orgeat for the Kissy Suzuki and so on.
The bar’s infamous ‘Leap of Faith’ has been renamed ‘Solitaire’, after Jane Seymour’s character in Live and Let Die, where customers pick a tarot card that determines what style of cocktail they will receive- sweet, sour, bitter or refreshing. This is the perfect way to challenge the bartenders to craft you a cocktail that perfectly suits your taste buds.
The physical menu is in the form of a well designed magazine full of vintage James Bond images and pretty Bond girls in bikini’s.
‘This time, Mr. Bond, the pleasure will be all mine’ GOLDENEYE
Xenia Onatopp is an impossible name for a woman, let alone a drink. The cocktail is refreshing, easy-going yet complex. As a first drink of the evening, this longdrink does the job. Koen van Schaaijk combines Onder de Boompjes Moutwijn (a brilliant spirit) with Luxardo Marashino, Yellow Chartreuse, pineapple, lemon and sage syrup. The result is malty, herby, fruity, fresh and slightly sweet. Garnished with a smoking smudge stick, a bundle of dried sage used in Native American ceremonies. Having studied in Navajo territory North Arizona in my younger years, this makes perfect sense to me. Oh yeah, there’s a dehydrated pineapple disc on-a-topp as well. Name me a cocktailbar without dehydrated pineapple, and win a FREE BOTTLE OF GIN!
‘Oh.. I never carry weapons after business hours.” GOLDFINGER
Pussy Galore is a rather naughty version of the quintessential summertime Julep cocktail, the menu tells us. Awesome, we like it naughty. It’s Bulleit Bourbon (Yay Ben Warren), Pussy syrup, Spanish bitters, passion fruit and mint. Wait.. Pussy syrup? Remember Pussy Energy Drink? It’s still alive, and the good folk at Vesper made a syrup out of it. The drink itself is pretty straight forward, easy and palatable.
“Females, they’re the worst. It took him a whole week to die. Did I do wrong?” (DR.NO)
Honey Ryder is my favourite drink of this menu, a goodbye present from former manager Niels van Wouwe. The best example of cocktail and food garnish pairing I’ve seen lately. The drink is very tasty and complex on itself with Michters Rye, honeydew melon infused Willem’s Wermoed, Suze and Elemakule Tiki bitters. The drink goes next level when the garnish gets involved, in a bite-sip-bite-sip –manner. A sate skewer with luscious and soft honeydew melon balls and salty cured prosciutto brings all the flavours together. F#cking nice Niels, thumbs up!
“I wish you weren’t in such a weakened condition.” OCTOPUSSY
We’re getting tiki with the Octopussy-cocktail. Smooth and rich Doorly’s XO rum and powerful Jamaican Wray & Nephew Overproof are accompanied by mangosteen juice, lime, passionfruit, molasses and a villainous home made tincture of scorpion chilli, cinnamon and allspice, called Kamal Khan Tincture. So much for the facts. An edible hibiscus flower poses as an octopus garnish to complete the colorful presentation.
“The coffin, it has your initials: J.B.!” THUNDERBALL
Mademoiselle La Porte is the most exciting of the two tiki drinks. This South East Asian flavoured concoction blends Diplomatico Blanco with Madeira port, lime, soursop, pandan, roasted coconut and Thunderball Falernum- a crafty home made falernum showcasing Julian’s Indonesian roots with spekkoek spices. Awesome stuff, great drink, well balanced and surprising.
“Why don’t you come in and find out….” MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
Chew Mee is a fresh and accessible drink with a South East Asian twist. The drink blends kaffir lime infused Bobby’s gin, ginger syrup, starfruit, cucumber, lime and Orinoco bitters. I’m not the biggest fan of cucumber in drinks, with some exceptions, Chew Mee being one of them. The candied stem ginger that comes with the drink is delicious, and gives my drinking companion for the evening, Martine, a state of never ending happiness.
“… and I thought that creep loved me…” A VIEW TO KILL
Mezcal Negroni’s are very much in fashion, as Mezcal is. Mayday is a take on a mezcal Negroni, with some huge differences. It’s a lot of things, even though It’s a only a 4-ingredient drink. I must say, this is my type of drink, and a nice goodbye drink after an evening of hardcore menu tasting. Which has been a very pleasant experience, with surprising flavours and quite well balanced drinks.
Great job guys!