When thinking about James Bond, one of the first things that come to mind is how he orders his favorite cocktail, which should be "shaken, not stirred". And the Vesper Martini, a boozy concoction, originally made of a mix of vodka, gin, and Kina Lillet, is tied even closer to the secret agent than the original.
Quick Facts Vesper Cocktail
- Method: stirred
- Flavor profile: dry, very boozy
- How to serve it: straight up
- Best glassware: Nick and Nora glass, Martini glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 30% ABV, 40 grams of alcohol per serving
As can be expected, 007 did like his drinks strong. Thus, the riff contains mostly high-proof alcoholic ingredients.
- 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
Ingredients for the original 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 would need (there's one issue, though):
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 by it, but also Queen Elizabeth used to. She definitely appreciated a good drink with Gordon's Gin & Dubonnet.
There is no specific brand mentioned in the book for this component. Yet, 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,…"James Bond
The only ingredient missing is Kina Lillet. Unfortunately, this product is no longer available as production has stopped. The Lillet company replaced it with Lillet Blanc decades ago. Lillet Blanc is a slightly sweeter version than the original and not the best substitute for the Vesper Martini.
If you're looking for a better alternative, 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?
We like to stir this elegant Martini cocktail, but ultimately, it's up to you.
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.
History of the Vesper cocktail
Perhaps this comes as a 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.
Thus, 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.
Because the Vesper is a relatively recent creation and well-documented thanks to its first appearance in a bestselling novel, we know the components and exact measurements: A mix of Gin, Vodka, and Kina Lillet. Or, like 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."James Bond
The Martini is one of the most tweaks and twisted cocktail recipes of all. Often so much so that the results have barely anything to do with the original apart from the name and the glass. When you want to keep it classy and elegant like the Vesper, try some of these variations:
And for some entirely different approaches to the classic, head over to our overview of the different types of Martinis.