A short history of the Vesper Martini – James Bond's drink of choice
It's the way to go. And it's 007-approved
The Vesper Martini, sometimes simply known as a Vesper, is a variant of the classic Dry Martini created by James Bond, so therefore author Ian Fleming.
The drink was invented by Fleming himself at the famous Dukes bar in Mayfair, and first featured in the 1953 James Bond novel Casino Royale. The entire scene which spawned the creation of the cocktail was recreated in the 2006 Casino Royale film featuring Daniel Craig.
The head bartender is as legendary as the drinks
The cocktail is named after the fictional double agent Vesper Lynd.
Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash
In theory, the gin must be Gordon’s, but in reality, any gin can be used. Speaking of which, the first thing you need to know about the recipe of the original Vesper Martini is that it does not actually include any Martini.
Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash
The cocktail is made with gin, vodka and Kina Lillet. As Bond says: "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?”
It's a strong one, but we'd still argue with Bond on the whole 'shaken, not stirred' thing... it dilutes the drink way too much and doesn't give you the punch you want from this drink. Plus you might end up with icy shards in your Martini, and no-one wants that.
One fan theory on the subject suggests Bond deliberately chooses a weaker drink to keep his wits about him, while at the same time appearing more inebriated than he is to observers. That way he'd never be able to be taken by surprise. We have no idea if this is true, but it's a nice idea.
What is Kina Lillet?
Kina Lillet is a French wine which is more or less the equivalent of vérmot/vermouth, which was created in Turin, Italy, in 1786. The main issue with Kina Lillet is that you can never find it, and that’s why some bars use Martini.
I have ordered a Vesper in several bars and cocktail lounges in different countries and the answer is always invariably the same, “Ok, except we haven’t got Kina Lillet”.
That’s the reason why modern bartenders have created new versions, usually with vermouth or sometimes with Martini, that reproduce, sort of the original taste. Of course, I’ve no idea what the original taste was because I was still a long way from being born in 1953.
The best Vesper I’ve ever tried was made by a very young bartender, who claims to have worked for Zlatan Ibrahimovic at a yacht party in the Mediterranean, at Chez Moi, which is a very unsettling and decadent "dance & nightclub" in Florence.