When thinking about James Bond, you immediately think of how he orders his favorite cocktail, the Martini. The drink that should be “shaken, not stirred” is something that stuck with our favorite secret agent. And as can be expected, 007 is not a fan of light drinks. The Vesper Martini is a variation he ordered in the “Casino Royale” novel, and it only contains highly alcoholic ingredients. It is a boozy mix of Vodka, Gin, and Kina Lillet.
The Vesper 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. Read on if you want to learn how the drink got invented and what you need to make a delicious Vesper Martini.
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 is created by someone who is usually more a consumer than a drink inventor. But that’s just what happened with the Vesper Martini.
Some might have guessed by now, and to others, this might be the biggest surprise about it: Ian Fleming, the author who invented and wrote the James Bond novels, is the inventor of this famous Martini riff. And because the Vesper is a relatively recent creation and a very well-documented one, we also know the exact components: A mix of Gin, Vodka, and Kina Lillet. Or as James Bond said it:
Usually, a drink that only contains alcoholic ingredients is not shaken but stirred. Anyway, 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. And there might also be some ice shard left in your Vesper if you don’t strain carefully.
Ingredients for a Vesper Martini
Ian Fleming was super precise when it comes 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: For the Gin part, James Bond explicitly asks for Gordon’s Gin. Even though this is not the fanciest and most exclusive brand of Gin, it has a long tradition in the UK. In fact, not only James Bond swears on it, but also Queen Elizabeth. She appreciates a good drink with Gordon’s Gin & Dubonnet.
If you want to experiment with the recipe, I recommend trying out different types of Gin first. Today, there’s a large variety on the market, from fruit-forward, more floral, herbal, and even maritime Gins. And that is a great way to create a slight twist on the recipe without re-inventing the wheel.
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, but 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,…”James Bond
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. Lillet themselves decided to replace it with Lillet Blanc, a slightly sweeter version than the original Kina Lillet. If you’re looking for a better replacement, try out Cocchi Americano. It’s much closer to the traditional taste of Kina Lillet and a great substitutional product.
- 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