The Vesper Martini is a classy and elegant drink that even made it into one of Ian Fleming's books. Certainly, when thinking about James Bond, one of the first things that come to mind is how he orders his favorite cocktail, the classic Martini - the cocktail that should be "shaken, not stirred".
So, the Vesper is a variation Bond ordered in the "Casino Royale" novel. As can be expected, 007 did like his drinks strong, thus, the riff contains only high-proof alcoholic ingredients. It is a boozy mix of Vodka, Gin, and Kina Lillet.
The refreshing cocktail is one of many delicious Martini recipes that evolved from the traditional version, and next to major winners like the Espresso Martini, it's undoubtedly one of the more popular riffs.
Ingredients for a Vesper Martini
Ian Fleming, inventor of the Vesper, was exceptionally precise when it came to describing the cocktail and its ingredients. So if you want to make the drink as close to the original as possible, here's what you need (there's one small issue, though):
- Gordon's GIn
- Grain Vodka
- Kina Lillet
For the Gin part, James Bond explicitly asks for Gordon's Gin. Even though this is not the fanciest and most exclusive brand, it has a long tradition in the UK. In fact, not only James Bond swears on it, but also Queen Elizabeth used to. She definitely appreciated a good drink with Gordon's Gin & Dubonnet.
If you want to experiment, I recommend trying out other types of Gin. The options are sheer endless, from fruit-forward or floral to herbal and even maritime. All has great potential in a Vesper Cocktail.
For the Vodka, there's no specific brand mentioned in the book. But there's an interesting note stating what kind of Vodka is the preferred choice of Mr. Bond.
After taking a sip of his Vesper, he praised the result. However, not without a recommendation on how to make the drink even better:
"Excellent … but if you can get a Vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better,…"
So Gordon's Gin and grain Vodka is for the base. The only ingredient missing is Kina Lillet.
Unfortunately, this product is no longer available as production has stopped. The Lillet company decided to replace it with Lillet Blanc, a slightly sweeter version than the original Kina Lillet.
If you're looking for a better alternative than Lillet Blanc, try Cocchi Americano, an Italian Dry Vermouth. It's much closer to the traditional taste of Kina Lillet and a great substitute.
Shaken or Stirred?
Usually, a drink that only contains alcoholic ingredients is not shaken but stirred. Shaking the Vesper Martini will make for a more aerated, colder, and more diluted drink. The appearance will be more cloudy than its stirred counterpart. We like to stir this elegant Martini cocktail, but, ultimately, it's up to you.
History of the Vesper cocktail
The story of how the Vesper came to life is pretty unusual. Most cocktails were invented in a bar or at least first mentioned in books written by experienced bartenders.
It is rare that such a famous cocktail comes from someone who is a consumer rather than a drink inventor. But that's just what happened with the Vesper Martini.
Perhaps this comes as a big surprise, or maybe you already guessed: Ian Fleming, the author who invented and wrote the James Bond novels, is the person who thought up this famous Martini riff. He describes how 007 orders the drink in his 1953 novel Casino Royale and explains how he later names it after his love, Vesper Lynd.
But back to the drink: because the Vesper is a relatively recent creation and well-documented thanks to its first appearance in a bestselling book, we know the components and exact measurements: A mix of Gin, Vodka, and Kina Lillet. Or as James Bond said it:
"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."
- 1 Jigger
- 3 oz Gordon's Gin
- 1 oz Grain Vodka
- 0.5 oz Cocchi Americano
- 1 Lemon peel
- Add all ingredients (except the lemon peel) into a mixing glass with plenty of ice.3 oz Gordon's Gin, 1 oz Grain Vodka, 0.5 oz Cocchi Americano
- Stir until the drink is well-chilled and strain into a chilled Martini glass.
- Press the oil out of a lemon peel over the drink to add some aroma to the drink. Rub the twist around the rim of the glass and drop it into the drink.1 Lemon peel
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