The Vesper

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There are six of us. We’re three couples, all good friends. When we get together there is always a signature cocktail for the evening. It’s my turn to play bartender tonight and the choice is easy: the Vesper. It’s a variation on the martini with a three-to-one gin to vodka ratio, a half measure of Lillet blanc, a dash of bitters, and a lemon peel garnish. Shaken not stirred, the way James Bond orders it. It’s the perfect tie-in because we’re watching Casino Royale. Not all of us are thrilled with the selection of that film for movie night.

At the beginning of the year, we each wrote down the titles of three movies and put them in a hat—a bell-shaped cloche, belonging to Jessica. She’s the only one of us who could look good in that kind of hat. Eighteen movie titles tossed into the hat, duplicate entries get the unique number down to twelve films. We take turns picking.

We have movie night twice, maybe three times a year. We don’t know who put in Casino Royale, but some of us are guessing Frank. You aren’t required to reveal which titles are yours, but when we watch a movie it’s pretty easy figuring out who added it to the hat. That’s how well we know each other. So we started trying to fool each other, which increased the variety of film titles in the hat and added a guessing game among us.

It was Beth who’d put in Carrie, and she is not the kind of person who likes horror, but she does like strong female protagonists, ones that face extreme stress and undergo transformation. We all agree Carrie White fits that description. And Beth herself is a strong female protagonist type. Frank threw in the title La La Land which fooled none of us. We knew he had a thing for Emma Stone. Evan was responsible for making us all sit through one of the Stars Wars films, but who can remember which one? The most artistic among us added the French film, The Return of Martin Guerre, not even trying to trick us.

After Casino Royale got selected, we had some discussion whether we should watch the 1967 James Bond-parody Casino Royale or the 2006 spy thriller by the same name starring a very in-form Daniel Craig in his first appearance as James Bond. The modern version won out in a lopsided vote. We were a little young to appreciate the 1960s humor.

We often paid little attention to the movie once it began. We turned the volume loud enough so you could hear the dialog if you were interested, and kept the subtitles on, but most of the time we were talking over the action. Maybe we were discussing a scene from the movie, but just as likely not.

As for the Vesper, the cocktail was invented by Ian Fleming in his 1954 novel, Casino Royale. James Bond named the drink after an encounter with a beautiful woman named Vesper Lynd. Everyone gets served their cocktail, we set out snacks for grazing, and arrange ourselves on the couches and chairs in front of the big screen.

The movie starts. It’s still the black-and-white opening scene, just three minutes in, when one of us says, My glass is already half empty.

Think of it as half full, Shauna says, our eternal optimist.

While the movie continues to play, we get into a discussion about the glass being half full vs. half empty.

Jessica says how you see it reflects your view on life, positive or negative. We ask how she sees it. Half empty, with a leak, she says.

That gets a good laugh from our group, but that’s Jessica for you, a little on the doom and gloom side. Beth is the complete opposite. She says she sees the glass as two-thirds full.

But that’s not how it works, someone protests, it’s either half full or half empty. You have to choose.

Relax, it’s just a game, it doesn’t mean anything.

No, it does. Jessica’s right, it reflects your outlook on life.

In that case, I’ll say it’s half full, but easily refillable. Is that within the rules?

One of us says he doesn’t like the half full or half empty choice because your point of view can be more nuanced than that. He says he is definitely not a half full kind of guy—no one would call Nick an optimist—but he doesn’t consider himself a pessimist either, so he can’t say the glass is half empty. He’s come up with his own take: it’s a third full.

Come on, Evan says, that’s more pessimistic than saying half empty, because a third full is two-thirds empty.

That’s not how I look at it. When you say half empty or half full, the words that have value are empty and full, with full having a positive value and empty having a negative value.

Dude, you’re getting too dep in the weeds over a simple idiom.

Let him finish.

So the positive concept of full combines with the negative value of being only a third full and this position allows me to be both optimistic and pessimistic.

Great, so you’re peptimistic. You want it both ways.

Yeah, don’t we all?

Who’s that character? Someone has turned their attention to the movie.

That’s Vesper Lynd, she’s the British agent assigned to help Bond. She’s the one the drink is named after.

Don’t trust her, James! She’s a double agent.

Hey, don’t give away the plot.

It’s not complicated. Every one of these movies is exactly the same.

You’re the one who added this movie to the hat.

Me? I didn’t do it. It had to be Frank. Or Evan.

I say Shauna.

It would never be Shauna.

Hey, quiet, here’s the scene.

James Bond: I think I’ll call it a Vesper.
Vesper Lynd: Because of the bitter aftertaste?
James Bond: No, because once you’ve tasted it, that’s all you want to drink.

That’s a great line. I wish I came up with that line.

It is all I want to drink. I thought you were making us another round. A full glass, please. None of this halfway business.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

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