The 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale threw this cocktail back into the spotlight – after what seemed like an eternity of vodka martinis “shaken, not stirred.” Make no mistake, the Vesper is a different beast all together, and is the epitome of a Bond cocktail.
Named after Bond’s love interest at the time, the Vesper has the distinction of probably being the only cocktail in existence to be “created” by a fictional character.
“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “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.”
After sipping, Bond continues;
“Excellent … but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better,”
And thus the Vesper was born. The drink was actually invented by a man named Ivar Bryce, a friend of Bond author Ian Fleming. The Vesper is a bit of a spin on a traditional martini, containing both vodka and gin, Kina Lillet rather than Vermouth, and a lemon peel rather than an olive. Bond actually only ever had this drink once, and for future novels moved on to vodka martinis, “shaken, not stirred.”
People have been trying to make the Vesper evere since. These days, the biggest hurdle is the Kina Lillet, which is for all practical purposes, impossible to find anymore. The original formula for Kina Lillet no longer exists. Many people claim that Cocchi Americano, an aperitif from Italy, is now what should be used as it is closer to the original taste of Kina Lillet. Some have experimented with other aperitif’s, but there has of yet been no real definitive replacement. Even Gordon’s Gin has been reformulated to have a lesser alcohol content. Even the vodka itself is different today. Sadly, the original taste using the actual ingredients is for all intents essentially gone.
Not to fear, for we have approximated something that is as close as you can probably get to what it tasted like back in the 50’s. We present to you here our approximation of the cocktail. You’ll find it’s a nice spin on the traditional martini with a more refreshing citrus-y twist.
A Vesper Martini
3 parts 94-proof gin (Tanqueray is a good choice)
1 part 100-proof grain vodka (Stolichnaya 100 Proof is a good choice)
1/2 part Cocchi Americano
Shake all ingredients well in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Take a large lemon peel and wipe the rim of the glass, then garnish.