One of the trademarks of the James Bond books, especially those written by Ian Fleming, is the attention to detail given to what 007 drives, wears, eats and drinks. Since the release of the 2006 film, Casino Royale, the Vesper has rocketed to popularity in bars across the world.
So it comes as little surprise that, when Jeffrey Deaver picks up the Bond literature baton, he wanted to make his mark by writing about his own drink; this drink is the Carte Blanche.
Bond first orders the drink in a London restaurant, in a scene that is a close reflection of his ordering of the Vesper in the bar at Royale les Eaux. He also enjoys it at a later point in the novel, with the book’s leading lady.
So how do you make a Carte Blanche?
From Chapter 18:
Bond decided on a cocktail. ‘Crown Royal, ice, a double, please. Add a half-measure of triple sec, two dashes of bitters (later specified as Angostura) and a twist of orange peel.’
As Bond correctly surmises, this is a twist on an Old Fashioned Cocktail (which consists of whisky, sugar, bitters and orange peel), but, in the Carte Blanche, the sweetness comes from an orange liqueur rather than straight sugar.
The drink uses Triple Sec, an orange liqueur. Bond does not specify any brand in particular, but Cointreau would be quite a good option. Alternatively, you could use any other brand of triple sec or clear curacao. For a slightly fancier drink, Mandarin Napoleon works exceptionally well.
The whisky specified in the book is Crown Royal Canadian Whisky, which was created in 1939 to celebrate a royal visit to Canada by the then King of England, George VI. It is a blend of Canadian Whisky that has been aged in white oak barrels and is bottled at 40%ABV.
Bond never specifies how to mix the drink, but I’ve tried it unmixed (just pouring the ingredients into the glass) and found that it didn’t really work: the bitters just hang there and the Triple Sec creates a bit of a slick.
My solution was to just swirl the drink round in the glass a couple of times with the end of a teaspoon or swizzle stick. This is a quick and simple solution and doesn’t involve any shaking or straining.
The drink is smooth, with some background warmth. I like the combination of the sweet orange from the Triple Sec and the bitter oils from the orange peel. The Angostura Bitters acts as a catalyst for the flavours. As you drink the cocktail and the ice melts, the Carte Blanche changes and gradually mellows out.
Although this is quite a good drink, for my money, I’d rather have a Traditional Old Fashioned or Sazarac; it’s certainly no Vesper.
One way that I have found to improve the drink is to use Van Wees Angostura Bitters; it brings the flavours of the cocktail together in a more elegant and sophisticated way and altogether makes for a rather excellent drink.
David T Smith runs the blog Summer Fruit Cup, looking at all things related to drink and drinking. Topics covered include tasting and reviews, cocktail history and vintage bar-ware.