Who hasn’t dreamed of spending a day in the life of James Bond, playing around with crazy gadgets and chasing down bad guys across the globe? Well, it won’t exactly help you become a super spy, but the Vesper cocktail will certainly appeal to fans of Ian Fleming’s classic stories, as it was the James Bond creator himself who invented this stiff drink.
History of the Vesper
This drink was created and named by the British author and journalist, Ian Fleming, in the seventh chapter of his 1953 James Bond story, Casino Royale. The scene begins with Bond in a bar, making a special cocktail request, “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?”
The barman whips up the drink while Bond explains to his friend, Leiter, “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.” At that point in the story, the cocktail has no official name, but in the very next chapter, Bond meets a beautiful woman and names the drink after her.
How to Make it – Recipe
This is the cocktail that gave rise to the classic “shaken, not stirred” line that has become one of Bond’s most famous catchphrases, and if you want to prepare it the way the secret agent intended, you’ll need to do the same. You’ll also need to prepare three key ingredients, and it’s interesting to note that the recipe used today isn’t quite the same as Bond’s original.
In Casino Royale, Bond asks for Kina Lillet, a wine-based aperitif. Unfortunately, Kina Lillet stopped being made back in 1986, so Lillet Blanc is commonly used instead. The proof of Gordon’s Gin has also changed since Bond’s heyday, so the recipe doesn’t quite produce the same effect as it may have done in the 1950s. Still, this recipe is the most faithful to the book and will produce enough drink to fill a classic cocktail glass.
- 1.5 oz (45ml) of gin
- 0.5 oz (15ml) of vodka
- 0.25 oz (7.5ml) of Lillet Blanc
- A lemon (optional)
- Pour the gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc into a mixing glass with some ice and shake
- Strain the mixture into a standard cocktail glass
- Add a lemon twist to garnish
Given that times have changed and it’s not quite possible to make this cocktail exactly as Ian Fleming first intended, various bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts have suggested alterations to the recipe to try and recreate the intended experience. Some suggest making use of Cocchi Americano instead of Lillet Blanc, which gives the drink a more bitter finish, for example.
Others say that 50% vodka is needed to boost the alcohol level of the drink and compensate for the lower proof of Gordon’s gin in modern times. You can also consider using other gins like Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire to get a similar effect. Also, despite Bond’s preferences, many cocktail connoisseurs say that this drink is better stirred, not shaken.
A bold and powerful cocktail, this is certainly one to try out if you want to spend a moment in the shoes of the world’s greatest spy.