The Vesper is a martini made famous by author Ian Fleming and his fictional creation, James Bond, in the 1953 (and very first) James Bond book, Casino Royale.
“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?”
Vesper Lynd is Bond’s very first female interest, and arguably the woman he falls for harder than any who came after. In the novel, Bond eventually names his prized drink after her, but their love is not to last. Harboring her status as a double-agent, Vesper eventually realizes her traitorous acts will spell doom to any future she and agent 007 could have, and kills herself, leaving behind a note admitting her guilt, a broken and profoundly stoic lover, and one hell of a hotly-named cocktail
The Vesper Martini
3 oz Gordon’s Gin
1 oz Vodka
0.5 oz (Kina) Lillet Blanc
Shake with ice and strain into a wine glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Kina Lillet, nowadays simply called “Lillet” (pronounced lee-lay), is a French apéritif made from a blend of wine, liqueurs, fruits and herbs, aged in oak vats for up to 12 months. It has a delicate golden orange color with a minty citrusy aroma. As an apéritif, on its own, its quite refreshing. In a Vesper, it holds back the roll of the gin and combines with its counterparts to create a mixture that nearly goes down flavorless (when mixed correctly), but lands in the belly with an unmistakable feverish kick and a deliciously vengeful aftertaste! So watch out when and if you indulge in them! Remember, you do NOT have a license to kill.
I have been enjoying this drink for several weeks now, but further research has informed me that the cocktail I’m drinking and the one the humorless literary Bond swallowed down in the 1950s novel differ dramatically.
First off, when Bond ordered his Gordon’s gin, it was 94 proof. It has since been re-formulated to 80 proof or less. In addition, the recipe for “Kina Lillet” was changed in 1986 and the quinine content decreased. So, the Vesper I’m drinking serves up far less bitterness than that in which Fleming’s Bond originally indulged. No matter. It’s a fantastically intriguing cocktail, surprisingly delicious yet deceptively deadly! Give it a try at your next high-stakes black tie evening of Chemin de Fer.