By Allen Pierleoni
The latest title in the multi-author James Bond pastiche - "Carte Blanche" - is a cut above the last several entries to have furthered the exploits of Agent 007. That's because the estate of the late novelist Ian Fleming (who created Bond) wisely contracted with veteran international-thriller novelist Jeffery Deaver to write the book.
The updated Bond still likes his cocktails, and Deaver created one just for this tale. Appropriately, he calls it the Carte Blanche. Which reminds us of another Bond-centric drink - the Vesper - that appeared in "Casino Royale" (the book and the film).
Has anybody actually tasted the two cocktails? We wanted to do just that, so we made our way to the Shady Lady saloon and there met with owner Jason Boggs and mixologist Sean Eggers.
Eggers carefully built a Carte Blanche and a Vesper, choosing ingredients to stay as true to the recipes as possible, and to update where needed. For instance, the Kina Lillet aperitif in the Vesper has not been made for decades, but Cocchi Americano dry vermouth is a fine (and likely better) substitute. And, though the Carte Blanche calls for Triple Sec, a less-sweet and better-quality orange liqueur is Cointreau.
Our taste-testing notes: "The Carte Blanche is smooth, spicy and earthy, with great orange smell. The Vesper displays a touch of sweet with some background bite. Drinker beware: Both are potent."
If you're looking for a winner between the two, you can decide for yourself. Each is excellent in its own way. The cocktails are made on request at Shady Lady, 1409 R St., Sacramento; (916) 231-9121, www.shadyladybar.com.
To make your own:
• 2 ounces Crown Royal Canadian whisky
• 1/2 ounce Cointreau
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients together in a large rocks glass (a.k.a. Old Fashioned glass) with ice and garnish with orange peel.
• 3 ounces Broker's London dry gin
• 1 ounce 100-proof Smirnoff vodka
• 1/2 ounce Cocchi Americano vermouth
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice; shake until cold; pour into a wide-brim champagne glass (a.k.a. Marie Antoinette glass) and garnish with lemon peel.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Vesper cocktail (at left) and the Carte Blanche cocktail, as made by head bartender Sean Eggers at the Shady Lady Saloon in Sacramento. Allen Pierleoni, Sacramento Bee.