- Cocktails and Spirits
January 26, 2011
An aperitif cocktail inspired by the popular Bond flick. Shaken, not stirred.
- ½ part White Lillet
- 3 parts gin
- 1 part vodka
- 5 ice cubes
- Lemon twist, for garnish
Combine the ingredients in a tumbler and shake. Strain into a martini glass and serve.
Bitter orange-scented Lillet Blanc perfumes this James Bond-approved variation on the classic martini cocktail.
The Vesper is an elegant compromise on the vodka vs. gin martini debate. Erik Delanoy
The Vesper Martini, made famous by Ian Flemming’s character James Bond in the novel (and film) Casino Royale, is a boozy bridge between the opposing sides of the vodka vs. gin debate as it requires both spirits. The addition of Lillet Blanc in place of the more traditional dry vermouth lends a slightly bittersweet, citrusy, and aromatic profile. This recipe boasts a 6:1 ratio, making it a perfect entry point to those unfamiliar with the world of fortified wines.
History of the Vesper Martini
The Vesper first appears in the 1953 book Casino Royale. James Bond asks a bartender for a dry martini, and then offers instructions for making it his way. Bond requests 3 measures of Gordon&rsquos gin, 1 measure of vodka, and a half measure of Kina Lillet, with a lemon peel for garnish.
He also specifies that the drink be shaken until cold. This is important, because typically cocktails made with only spirits are stirred. We will cover more on the &lsquoshaken vs stirred&rsquo debate later.
At this point for James Bond, the drink was just a gin and vodka martini. Later, Bond meets a woman named Vesper Lynd and decides to name that cocktail after her. The passage in the book goes as follows:
&lsquoA dry martini,&rsquo he said. &lsquoOne. In a deep champagne goblet.&rsquo
&lsquoJust a moment. Three measures of Gordon&rsquos, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it&rsquos ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?&rsquo
&lsquoCertainly monsieur.&rsquo The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
&lsquoGosh, that&rsquos certainly a drink,&rsquo said Leiter.
Bond laughed. &lsquoWhen I&rsquom &hellip er &hellip concentrating,&rsquo he explained, &lsquoI 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&rsquos my own invention. I&rsquom going to patent it when I think of a good name.&rsquo
Lillet Blanc, Kina Lillet
Lillet Blanc, which is available to most poeple now is a lightly sweet, vaguely floral fortified win.
Kina Lillet was discontinued in 1986 and Gordon&rsquos Gin cut the proof of their product in 1992, unfortunately, we cannot follow the exact recipe as it was stated. We can however use substitutes that can get close:
- Lillet Blanc is available, but Kina Lillet included quinine (hence its name). Cocchi Americano can be used as a substitute because has a more bitter finish than if you use Lillet Blanc.
- For a more traditional flavor, 100 proof vodka should be used to bring the alcohol content of the cocktail back to 1953 levels.
- Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, or Broker&rsquos gins provides the traditional flavor of 94 proof gin. Because Gordon&rsquos Gin has been cut to 75 proof. Some higher proofs are exported, but you have to look for them.
How to Make the Classic James Bond Vesper Martini
One of James Bond’s most enduring catchphrases is “shaken, not stirred.” But what, exactly, is being mixed in that cocktail shaker? Most of us know that it’s a martini of some sort, but that cocktail has evolved in such numerous ways over the decades, can we really know the specific type of martini that Bond indulges in?
We can if we dig into Ian Fleming’s very first novel about the world’s most famous spy: Casino Royale (the recipe was mentioned in the 2006 film adaptation of the book as well). In the story , Fleming tells us, through Bond himself, the exact recipe for the Vesper martini (an old word for evening, as well as the name of an alluring female Secret Service agent with whom 007 works on this case):
“A dry martini. One. In a deep champagne goblet. . . . 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?”
If you know cocktails, you know that’s quite a strong drink (a “measure” can either mean 1 or 1.5 US ounces, depending on the establishment). It’s between 4-6 oz of hard liquor, plus that extra half measure of Lillet (an apertif, fortified wine i.e., a beverage meant to be consumed before dinner to stimulate the appetite). That’s at least two times the amount of booze contained within your average cocktail.
Felix Leiter, in the novel, notices this fact and responds, “Gosh, that’s certainly a drink.” To which Bond explains, “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.”
Interestingly enough, Casino Royale is in fact the only time Fleming has Bond order a Vesper in the other books he drinks regular vodka and gin martinis. But 007 gave the recipe with such inedible conviction, that it’s become an enduring part of popular culture.
If you’d like to move beyond merely hearing about the Bond martini to actually tasting it, today I ’ll go through all the ingredients you’ll need, as well as how to make it with your home bar.
If you’re ready to harness your inner secret agent, and gain a bit more savoir faire, it’s time to learn how to make a Vesper.
While the Vesper is often classified as a martini, it really defies categorization. A classic martini contains gin, dry vermouth, and an olive or two. A vodka martini simply replaces the gin with vodka.
Bond uniquely combines the two spirits, and instead of using vermouth, he requests Kina Lillet. And rather than olives, Bond uses lemon peel as a garnish. It’s a drink as unique as 007 himself. Let’s briefly discuss the individual ingredients before we get into properly mixing the cocktail.
Gordon’s. Gordon’s is a brand of dry gin that’s been made in London since the late 1700s. (If you’re buying it in the U.S., however, it’s been made in either the States or Canada.) While it’s an inexpensive gin in today’s craft-obsessed market (my 1.75L bottle cost just $14 — a steal!), it accounts for over a third of Britain’s gin market, and is annually among the best-selling brands worldwide. Even snobby reviewers tend to give Gordon’s a fair shake and admit that it’s a quality product, especially at its low price point. Gordon’s Gin can be found at most liquor stores.
Vodka. Of the Vesper martini’s three alcohols, this is the only one for which Bond doesn’t specify a brand. He actually explains it in Casino Royale (the novel): “if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better” — indicating that this version was made with a potato vodka. He then says, however, “Mais n’enculons pas des mouches” (a French phrase meaning “let’s not split hairs”). While Bond’s a man of impeccably good taste, he’ll also take what’s available to him — in terms of vodka, at least! For my home version, I went with New Amsterdam, a perfectly middle-of-the-road grain vodka made here in the US that I bought for about $20 (for a 750ml bottle).
A side note: back in the early s when Fleming created the recipe, the standard ABV of vodka would have been closer to 50% (or 100 proof). Most of what you’ll find today on shelves is between 80 and 90 proof, but if you really want to recreate the original Vesper, look for a 100-proof vodka.
Kina Lillet. Here is where things get tricky. Lillet is a French brand of fortified wine that at one time contained quinine (the defining ingredient in tonic). In the late 1800s, “tonic wine” became rather popular and was marketed as a preventive beverage that would fight off fevers and malaria.
It remained popular for many decades, but by the 1970s and ‘80s, demand for quinquinas (beverages with quinine in them) had died down, and the company changed the recipe (and name — to Lillet Blanc), drastically reducing the amount of quinine. While there’s purportedly still some in the recipe, on its own, Lillet Blanc tastes mostly like a sweet white wine. It’s as close as you’ll get to the original Vesper mixer, however, and it can be found with vermouths and other apertifs in most liquor stores for about $20 for a 750ml bottle.
Cinchona-infused liquor. So where will we get that distinct quinine flavor? We can’t just add tonic that would water down the beverage too much. So instead we make what is essentially our own quinine liquor. We do that by the simple process of mixing cinchona bark — where quinine comes from — with vodka (I used the New Amsterdam that I bought for this recipe). You likely won’t be able to easily find cinchona bark, so order it online. A pound was about $20, and you’ll get many batches of infused liquor from that amount.
Since vodka is a neutral spirit — that is, it doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own — it’s particularly good at absorbing other flavors and is therefore perfect for making home infusions. I used a small handful of cinchona bark — slightly less than 1/4 cup — and mixed it with about 6oz of vodka in a mason jar. I let it sit for about 24 hours, and it ended up with a wonderful quinine aroma and a deep golden hue. Filter it through cheesecloth (or a coffee filter), keep it stored in the mason jar, and you have quinine liquor for use in your evening Vespers!
Lemon. Any lemon will do I used a serrated paring knife to cut a “large thin slice of lemon peel” as directed by Bond himself.
How to Make a Classic James Bond Vesper Martini
As Bond famously noted, this cocktail is to be very well shaken until ice cold. It’s generally accepted nowadays that this was foolish from a mixologist’s perspective. Shaken drinks tend to be those that include juice, egg whites, or cream cocktails with those ingredients need to be very well incorporated, and even a little frothy. Cocktails that include purely alcoholic ingredients should rather be stirred in a glass of ice then strained out into your glass, as shaking will make the drink cloudy and can excessively water it down, as the shaking melts the ice.
- Peel your lemon and place it in the glass first. When you pour the drink, this allows the essence of the peel to be more evenly incorporated throughout the drink rather than just plopping it in at the end.
- Fill your shaker with ice.
- Add all liquid ingredients to the shaker. Rather than making the uber-boozy drink that Bond requested, I did half measures. Since the recipe is listed in parts rather than specific measurements, it’s easily scalable. The cocktail is still plenty strong, don’t worry. Of course, if you’re feeling plucky, feel free to go with Bond’s full measures. (Just don’t drive afterwards, or get in a fight with a member of the KGB!)
- 1.5 oz Gordon’s Gin
- .5 oz vodka (again, preferably a grain vodka)
- .25 oz Lillet Blanc
- 2 dashes cinchona-infused liquor — I know this is terribly unspecific I poured a couple small dashes directly from the mason jar and it was perfect
- Shake it up! Hold the shaker in both hands and vigorously shake the cocktail for a slow count to 10, or until the outside of the shaker gets cold and frosty.
- Pour into your champagne glass and enjoy! Interestingly, Bond requests a champagne goblet as his vessel rather than a standard cocktail glass with a stem and wide triangular bowl. I’ve always thought those types of glasses to be a bit feminine, and I was glad to find that Bond seemed to agree! I used an antique champagne saucer that still had a stem (which is important so that the drink stays chilled while you’re holding it), but a wide, slightly shallow and rounded bowl.
I have to honestly say that this was the best martini I believe I’ve had (I know I said above that it’s not really a martini, but it’s what folks call it, so I’m stickin’ with it). I’m not much of a vodka fan, so vodka martinis don’t do anything for me. And while a classic gin martini is okay, I don’t enjoy the olives that typically come with it, and it’s quite stiff. The Vesper, with its Lillet and quinine infusion, has a bit of sweetness that perfectly offsets the slightly bitter character of the dry gin. And the vodka adds an extra flavor that can only be described as “booziness” that is rather unique and enjoyable in a gin-based cocktail.
While I’m still largely a whiskey man, I can see the Vesper popping up in my mix of homemade cocktails to make for special evenings with friends and family. To say you’re making the classic Bond martini is sure to not only enliven the environment, but provide superb conversation fodder as well!
Be sure to check out our podcast on the real-life inspiration for James Bond:
Ian Fleming, the author of the famous James Bond books, invented the vesper cocktail in his 1953 novel, Casino Royale. Bond himself orders the drink (duh) and provides very concise instructions to the bartender when doing so: "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?" And the stiff drink was born. The vesper, also known as a vesper martini, differs from a traditional martini in that it calls for both gin and vodka. It also swaps in Lillet, an aromatic honey-lemon French aperitif, in place of the signature dry Vermouth as the flavor modifier. The result is a citrusy, smooth, and super strong drink you're soon to love. (P.S. We know Bond liked his cocktails shaken, not stirred, but doing so dilutes the cocktail and lets little shards of ice into your vesper. Stirring is the way to go here.)
Casino Royale cocktail recipe
The Casino Royale cocktail was probably named after the first James Bond novel, and it has the sort of ingredient list you expect from the drinks of the sixties.
Along with gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur, it uses an egg yolk which adds a bit of thickness and froth to the drink. (As always, if you don’t want to use a raw egg yolk, pasteurized egg substitute works just fine.)
Because the lemon and cherry are so well-balanced in this recipe, the flavor of your gin comes through strongly and it’s worth using a good one.
I like Hendrick’s in lemony drinks because it has those bright notes as well as many others, but if you want a slightly more herbal tone, Bombay Sapphire is another great choice.
This is a drink to be sipped and savored. It’s mild enough to enjoy with a meal – anything you’d pair a Gin Martini with.
I always think of grilled, slightly smoky meat dishes as a good complement to a gin-based cocktail, so a steak or grilled chicken or fish would work.
Spicy foods would contrast nicely because this drink is tart and just a tiny bit sweet. If you’re looking to pair this cocktail with a good hearty meal, try the Lemon Chicken and Spinach Orzo Soup from Cooking Classy.
The lemon seasonings in this dish really bring out the citrus notes in the drink.
If you like this drink, have a look at the Gin Daisy. It has similar flavors, but without the egg yolk.
Pour the Campari and vermouth into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice cubes.
Garnish with a lemon or orange slice or twist. Serve and enjoy.
- Pour a quality clear soda water without sweeteners or extra flavors. Club soda is the most popular option, though seltzer and mineral water make fine Americanos as well.
- Ensure your sweet vermouth is fresh. The fortified wine does not have the long shelf life of distilled spirits and will go stale just three months after the bottle is opened.
- Switch to a highball glass and add more soda for a tall thirst quencher.
When Was the Americano Invented?
A classic cocktail, the Americano was first served in the 1860s at Gaspare Campari's bar in Milan, Italy. It was originally named "Milano-Torino" because of the origins of its two primary ingredients: Campari calls Milan home and the sweet vermouth was made in the style of Torino, Italy. The cocktail was later renamed because of its popularity among American tourists around the turn of the 20th century and prior to Prohibition.
What's the Difference Between the Americano and Negroni?
Campari is best-known for two famous cocktails: the Americano and Negroni. Both drinks use equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, but the Negroni does not include soda, opting for an equal measure of gin instead. The Americano actually spurred the creation of the Negroni in the 1920s. It's said that Count Camillo Negroni ordered "an Americano with gin" while at a cafe in Florence, Italy. It's unclear if that story is true, however.
The Dry Martini – 007 Style
We have to start with the most well known of the casino cocktails: the dry Martini. Having been 007’s favourite from the very first James Bond book, the dry Martini is an extremely popular choice for party throwers, and one that just can’t go wrong.
It starts with a fresh Martini glass, into which you add a mixture of three parts gin, a shot of vodka, and half a shot of Vermouth. Shaken with ice is a must, and adding a little fresh lemon finishes the drink off.
Not only is this great for a group event, but even for those days you want to laze around and enjoy some pokies online NZ games, the dry Martini is a go-to for both casino and 007 fans.
I think Cocchi Americano is much closer to the bitter Kina Lillet than Lillet Blanc.
James Bond: “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?”
Quantum of Solace
Mathis: “What are you drinking?”
James Bond: “I don’t know.” Turning to bartender, “What am I drinking?”
Bartender: “Three measures of Gordon's gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Which is not vermouth. Shaken well until it is ice cold and served with a large thin slide of lemon peel.
Six of them.”
The Kir Royale meets the vodkatini in this pink but powerful drink.
Created in 2001 by Dick Bradsell at Monte's, London, England.
There are approximately 142 calories in one serving of Martini Royale.
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