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The Vesper Martini

The Vesper Martini


It's no secret that James Bond loves to drink, but while the "shaken, not stirred" order gets all the attention, the Vesper Martini has become just as much of a cult classic. The Vesper Martini is an original James Bond cocktail created by the author of the Bond series, Ian Fleming. In the book, Casino Royale, written in 1953, Mr. This drink has gone on to achieve some fame of its own. It has become of staple in bars everywhere, including The NoMad Hotel — current New York hot spot. Leo Robitschek, beverage director of The NoMad Hotel, gave us his variation on the Vesper.


The Vesper Martini

“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Oui, monsieur.”
“Just a moment. 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. Got it?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

The drink arrives in the first Bond novel Casino Royale, and only on film in the 2006 adaptation, in which he consumes seven… one of which is poisoned.

It’s remarkable that this drink has become so famous when you consider that for more than half of its lifetime it has been impossible to make it properly. The enigmatic ingredient that Bond calls for, Kina Lillet, is notoriously hard to get hold of.

A French wine-based aperitif that first appeared in 1887, Kina Lillet became immensely popular, particularly in America. Technically categorised as an aromatised wine, it’s made by fortifying a Bordeaux wine, Semillon, with liqueurs, then barrel-aged. The number and flavour of the liqueurs is a closely guarded secret, the company only conceding that they use sweet and bitter oranges and lemon.

It can be argued that a Vesper isn’t a martini at all, because a martini must be made with vermouth. Whilst aromatised wines and vermouth have much in common they are distinctly not the same. Furthermore, experts will argue that the martini should only be stirred… sorry, Bond.

Incredibly, Fleming also admitted in a letter the editor of The Manchester Guardian, published in 1958, that he “proceeded to invent a cocktail for Bond (which I sampled several months later and found unpalatable)… The gimmickry grew like bindweed and now, while it still amuses me, has become an unfortunate trademark. I myself abhor wine and foodmanship.”

Created by an author, not a bartender, prepared in the wrong manner using an ingredient which has not been available for thirty-plus years, and described by its own creator as unpalatable… Yet the Vesper Martini is indelibly linked to everyone’s favourite spy, Mr James Bond.


What’s in a Vesper martini?

The idea that a fictional character can invent a drink has us tickled! But of course, the real props go to the James Bond series author, Ian Fleming. In Casino Royale, James Bond approaches the bar and asks for a very specific type of martini. In the next chapter, he names it “the Vesper” after his love interest, Vesper Lynd. (Vesper means “evening” in Latin, and she was born on a stormy evening. Classic, right?) The drink quantities and ingredients in the book were so specific, you can easily recreate the Vesper at home. The ingredients in a Vesper martini are:

The Vesper martini went on to be included on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it’s part of the official bartender drinks list. Pretty impressive, James Bond!


How to Make a Vesper

James Bond was good at many things, but inventing a cocktail was not one of them.

  1. Stir ingredients briskly with ice in a mixing tin until very cold.
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a large, thin-cut lemon peel.

James Bond displayed prowess in many disciplines. Driving gadget-laden Aston Martins! Sassing M! Wearing the hell out of a suit! But that prowess all but abandoned him where a Vesper crossed his path&mdashthe woman he loved, who betrayed him, and the drink he invented in her memory, which lives on to confuse us all.

Bond made the Vesper a cocktail known the world over that's the power of a strong personal brand. But had Bond (or rather, author Ian Fleming) not been its creator, it likely would not have stood a chance on its own. The Vesper, adjacent to a proper martini but nowhere near as balanced, has potency going for it, sure. The ratios of gin, vodka, and Lillet (a French aperitif used as a vermouth substitute) deserves to be questioned, but we won't tamper with Bond's recipe. Where we will go rogue is the Vesper's construction. As you and everyone else in the galaxy knows, Bond ordered martinis shaken, not stirred, but that's no way to get one bone-chillingly cold. We'd have you stir, not shake. Like this:

A Little Background

In Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale, Bond ordered the following yet-unnamed cocktail from a bartender: "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. Got it?" His directions were crystal clear, and for his trouble, he got what would haven been an ill-proportioned drink, where the Lillet got drowned by gin, which in turn was not nearly drowned enough by the vodka. Shortly thereafter Bond named the Vesper. And then he never ordered it on the page again.

A lot has changed since 1953&mdashhell, six men have played Bond since&mdashand that includes the ingredients in Bond's original Vesper. Gordon's gin is no longer as strong as it used to be, for one. For another, Lillet altered its formula Kina Lillet became the less-bitter Lillet Blanc. In this how-to, we have the original recipe as Bond ordered it, but look here for ways to tweak it so that it more closely replicates the 1953 version.

If You Like This, Try These

The Vesper has the honor of being Bond's own invention, but it wasn't the drink he favored. For that, you'd have to make a Vodka Martini, or Gin Martini. You'll probably enjoy it loads more. In keeping with the Bond theme, you could also make yourself an Old Fashioned, a Scotch and Soda, or an Americano&mdashall ordered by the agent at one point or another.

What You Need

Here&rsquos what you need to do a Vesper justice, beyond what you might be able to dig out of the fridge or cupboard.


Vesper martini: the recipe for a modern day vesper martini

The Vesper Martini is the drink that is made famous by James Bond in the novel Casino Royale. Just for the sake of some history on the origin of the drink, the drink recipe was introduced in Chapter Seven of the book, but was not named until chapter eight, when James Bond meets the double agent Vesper Lynd.

There is also a story which says that the drink was originally made by Gilberto Preti at Duke’s Hotel in London which impressed Ian Fleming enough to be introduced the drink in the book.

The original recipe, as described by James Bond himself goes something like this: “Three measures of Gordon’s (Gin), one of Vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until ice cold and then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.

The Vesper Martini differs from the classic martini in that it uses both Gin and Vodka as the base spirit while substituting Dry Vermouth with Kina Lillet. The garnish is a lemon peel instead of the olive. The drink is also supposed to be made with a grain based Vodka rather than a potato based spirit.

There are some difficulties with recreating the original Vesper recipe as some of the ingredients have since become extinct or are hard to find, especially Kina Lillet. The modern day Lillet Blanc is a good substitute for Kina Lillet. Cocchi Americano is also a good substitute.

The original Gordon’s Gin was 94-proof which is quite difficult to find these days. Most modern recipes and variations of Vesper martini use commonly available dry Gin of choice. The original version of Vesper also calls for the drink to be served in a deep Champagne goblet, but it is just as good in almost any glass. You can use a martini glass if you do not have a champagne goblet handy.

Ingredients

  • 3 shots of Gin (ideally high proof)
  • 1 shot of Vodka (ideally grain based)
  • 1/2 shot of Lillet Blanc
  • A large lemon peel for garnish

Recipe/Preparation

  1. Add ice cubes into a martini shaker
  2. Add 3 shots of premium high proof Gin into the shaker
  3. Add 1 shot of premium Vodka into the shaker
  4. Add half a shot of the Lillet Blanc
  5. Shake the contents of the shaker well, till it is ice cold
  6. Twist and squeeze a large lemon peel into a chilled martini glass or a champagne goblet
  7. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass over the lemon peel

Variations and Similar Drinks

Classic Gin Martini: The original martini from which the Vesper martini is believed to have originated. Use just Gin and substitute the Lillet Blanc with Dry Vermouth.
Vesper Lynd Martini: The same ingredients as the Vesper, but different proportions. The Vesper Lynd uses equal proportions of Gin and Vodka.
Viollete Vesper: Substitute Lillet Blanc with Creme de Viollete. It resembles Vesper in that it uses two base spirits.


Ian Fleming’s/007’s Vesper Martini

My most frequent tipple during my home cocktail hour is, and for many years has been, a classic martini made with gin and an appreciable quantity of dry vermouth.

I also happen to be a big James Bond fan, however. Naturally, periodically I elect to indulge in 007’s beverage of choice in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale and the 2006 movie adaptation in which Daniel Craig stars as the fictional spy.

No doubt, the narrative about the discontinuation of one of the 3 ingredients of the Vesper, Kina Lillet, and the quest to faithfully recreate the drink Bond orders, is one that has been belabored by many.

For those not familiar, I’ll follow with what I consider the essential information. First, here is the language from the book:

"One. In a deep champagne goblet."

"Just a moment. 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. Got it?"

"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

"Gosh, that's certainly a drink," said Leiter.

Bond laughed. "When I'm. er. concentrating," he explained, "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."

Kina Lillet, as mentioned above, is no longer in production. The beverage conglomerate Pernod Ricard produces a presumably similar product, Lillet Blanc, but it is decidedly a different formula than Kina Lillet, most notably due to the omission of quinine, which lended a bitter quality to Kina Lillet.

Many others more well versed in spirits and more ambitious than myself have found some clever workarounds to this issue. Some contend that products exist, such as Cocchi Americano and Tempis Fugit Kina L’Aero D’Or, that more closely approximate an authentic Vesper than the modern Lillet. Others have added cinchona bark powder or a dash of bitters to the shaker to supplement the missing quinine element.

A couple other considerations for those attempting to recreate Fleming’s 1953 recipe are the gin and vodka selections.

Modern day Gordon’s, in my opinion, is a fine product and an unbeatable value for gin. It is my understanding, however, that the proof of the product varies considerably by international markets. In 1953, as seems to be the consensus, it was probably close to 50% ABV, though I cannot confirm any specific figure.

The same principle follows for the vodka used. It was probably also closer to 50% ABV rather than the 40% common in modern day vodka.

Further, though Bond doesn’t specify a vodka, once the cocktail is in front of him he claims an affinity for a grain based spirit over one that is potato based, indicating that the barman used the latter.

My personal FAVORITE piece of information about the Vesper, though, is Ian Fleming’s reaction to his own creation. He wrote to the Manchester Guardian in 1958:

I proceeded to invent a cocktail for Bond (which I sampled several months later and found unpalatable).

That being the case, the Vesper has secured a spot in the cocktail canon. Fleming’s feelings aside, it’s a pretty good drink to my taste.

I know many purists, including myself, prefer to stir rather than shake cocktails containing only spirits. However, with all due deference to Ian Fleming and 007, I shake mine.

Shake all ingredients with ice until properly chilled and diluted. Strain into your favorite cocktail glass. Garnish with an expressed lemon peel.


Vesper Martini Recipe

It’s that time of the week again… Fri-yay! And if you’re part of "The Real's" family, you know that can only mean we’ve got another delicious cocktail recipe for you to try at home with friends.

This classic cocktail was a favorite of James Bond, and has a tempting, aromatic quality not seen in many old-school drinks. Bond prefers this cocktail shaken, not stirred, but you can have it any way you want.

The Vesper martini is famously made with both gin and vodka, which results in a crisp, clean, complex taste. It’s perfect for parties, and guests will be wowed by the elegant presentation of a single lemon twist in the clear cocktail.

This drink can also be made in larger quantities and served pitcher-style. Just make sure to have some lemon twists handy to add to glasses as the drink is poured.

As always, if you’re craving the cocktail experience, but not interested in the booze, you can make this drink into a non-alcoholic mocktail by substituting white grape juice for vodka.

Check out the recipe below, and please send us pictures of your versions of the Vesper martini by using #RealFriYay on Instagram. We might even share your photo on "The Real's" social media accounts!

INGREDIENTS
2.5 oz. Dry gin
1.5 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. Kina Lillet
lemon twist
If you want to go the mocktail route, swap the alcohol for white grape juice!

PREPARATION
• Fill a shaker half full of ice.
• Pour in gin, vodka and Kina Lillet.
• Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, then garnish with lemon twist.


The Vesper Martini: Casino Royale

“Just a moment. 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. Got it?”

“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.

Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

—Ian Fleming, Casino Royale, Chapter 7, “Rouge et Noir’

Later in the novel, after Bond first meets Vesper, he asks to borrow the name. And thus the Vesper martini was born in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. But before you run off to make the perfect Vesper for your Casino Royale 10th Anniversary parties, let’s dwell on some details. Preferably details that will make you sound incredibly snobbish at gatherings, am I right?

Fleming’s friend Ivar Bryce first concocted the recipe for the Vesper martini in the early 1950’s. Since then, however, the ingredients are no longer Bryce’s. If you search for the recipe, you’ll note many variations of the drink. I’ve collected a dozen slightly different variations on the original — and yes, I’ve made and tried them all.

Let’s start with the basics as detailed by Fleming.

The Vesper Martini (from Casino Royale):

Shake all ingredients. Strain into a martini glass and add a lemon twist.

Gordon’s gin is not Gordon’s gin. North American Gordon’s is mixing gin, sold by the barrel. It tastes accordingly like swill. Even the superior British Gordon’s has been reformulated to 75 proof from the original 94.6. (A 94.6 proof Gordon’s Export gin exists out there in the wild, but I’ve not yet had the pleasure of procuring a bottle for Vesper sampling.)

Likewise, the vodka Fleming would have used was 100-proof, whereas the vodka currently in your cabinet is likely a 90. Though, this is merely a note for obsessives or people who want to find themselves under the table a little faster. But there is a reason for the high alcohol content of the drink. The shaking produces a greater dilution. If you find yourself with lower proof vodka, dare I say, you might consider stirring your Vesper — which would actually more align with Bond’s stated wish for a drink that is cold. Stirring actually creates the colder drink.

Now the main reason for so many modern Vesper martini variations. Kina Lillet removed quinine from the drink in 1986 and became merely Lillet or Lillet Blanc. The Lillet sold in stores today is most definitely not a straight substitute for Fleming’s Kina Lillet. Modern Lillet is sweeter and doesn’t have enough bite to rise above 3 measures of gin. It never stood a chance.

All that said, here’s my current preferred formulation, including liquors of choice.

007hertzrumble’s Vesper Martini:

1.0oz vodka (Stoli Blue label – 100 proof)

splash of lemon juice or even Lillet (each balanced the drink in different ways)

Shake all ingredients. Strain into a martini glass and add a lemon twist.

My preferred gin for martinis has become Tanqueray 10. I find it smoother than the other regular, commercially available gins. Don’t get fancy with your gin in this drink. Find your martini standard and stick with it. For vodka authenticity I stick with the 100-proof Stoli Blue label, but you probably won’t notice the difference between 90 and 100 unless you’re sipping side-by-side.

Replace the extinct Kina Lillet with Cocchi Americano, an Italian apertif wine that contains quinine. In case you’re concerned about never actually finishing that bottle of Cocchi Americano, look up the recipe for a Corpse Reviver #2. You’ll finish the bottle. (You can also try Lillet with two drops of bitters as a substitute, but I wasn’t fond of the bitters and Lillet combo.)

About that splash of lemon juice/Lillet. I hate to say this, but after trying to perfect the Vesper recipe over the last couple years, I’ve concluded that the Vesper is a challenging beverage. And by challenging, I mean it’s quite abrasive. And perhaps this is for the best because more than two of these and you’ll be buggered. The splash of lemon or Lillet sweetens the package just enough. Too much, however, and the drink tastes really confused. It’s a fine line between perfection and a straight up kerfuffle.

For a sweeter version, remove the Cocchi and just add 2/3oz of Lillet and the splash of lemon to give the flavor a fighting chance. Adjust as necessary.

Still, despite the barriers to entry, I’ve come to enjoy these martini half-breeds. Partly because I’m a Bond enthusiast and partly because I find the perfect Vesper slightly elusive. I’ve made a few great ones at home and had one perfect Vesper martini at a French restaurant — which swapped the gin and vodka ratios (3:1 vodka to gin) and used extra Lillet… which I’ve also attempted at home.

Here’s my best attempt at the inversion.

007herzrumble’s Inverted Vesper martini:

3oz vodka (Belvedere or Grey Goose)

Stir (blasphemy!) — no really, stir — all ingredients in the shaker. Strain into a martini glass and add a lemon twist.

A personal warning — never — never ever ever ever drink more than 2 Vespers of any variety. If you need a refresher about how to make a standard, straight up dry martini, here’s a YouTube video that uses my preferred recipe with a bunch of guys who are mostly less annoying that most YouTube bartenders.


The Vesper Cocktail Recipe

Introduced to the world in 1953 in Casino Royale—the first book in what became Ian Fleming's sprawling James Bond franchise—the Vesper has had more popularity in print and in film than it's ever had inside a glass. Which is too bad, actually, considering it's actually a pretty decent drink.

In the book, Bond spells out the recipe very clearly to a barman, and the drink he describes is a sort of hybrid between the classic gin martini and the then-upstart vodka martini, with a notable twist: for a flavor modifier, instead of the martini's signature dry vermouth, Bond specifies Kina Lillet.

Kina Lillet disappeared from the bar in the mid-1980s, when Lillet reformulated its product and removed "Kina" from the name. Some have claimed that pre-reformulation Lillet had a sharper bitter bite, with a flavor similar to that of Cocchi Aperitivo Americano, an Italian aperitif wine currently enjoying its moment in the craft-cocktail sun.

That's a topic for further research for now, the Vesper offers its own opportunities for exploration. Start with the basics: the vodka part is easy, just go with one you like for the gin, aim for an old-school London dry, such as Tanqueray or Beefeater. Then, if you're in the mood for an experiment and you have some friends to play along (not to mention the ingredients), try mixing two versions of the drink, the first with Lillet and the second with Cocchi Americano.

(Oh, and a word on the quantities: as detailed in the book, the recipe makes a massive, very potent drink—pretty much what you'd expect for James Bond. Take it easy, though unless you've either got a license or an evening to kill, I'd suggest you cut the recipe in half or share this with a friend.)

Both versions are quite nice, but where the Lillet version will be smooth and floral with a touch of citrus, the Cocchi version will have a crisp, bitter finish. Which Vesper is better? You be the judge.


Vesper Martini Recipe

It’s that time of the week again… Fri-yay! We have a delicious dry gin recipe, and you can make a mocktail version of it by just swapping the alcohol for white grape juice! Check out the recipe below.

INGREDIENTS
2.5 oz. Dry gin
1.5 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. Kina Lillet
lemon twist
If you want to go the mocktail route, swap the alcohol for white grape juice!

PREPARATION
• Fill a shaker half full of ice.
• Pour in gin, vodka and Kina Lillet.
• Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, then garnish with lemon twist.

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