Vesper (cocktail)

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IBA official cocktail
The Vesper.png
Base spirit
ServedStraight up: chilled, without ice
Standard garnishlemon zest
Standard drinkware
Cocktail Glass (Martini).svg
Cocktail glass
IBA specified
PreparationPour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Commonly servedBefore dinner
Cocktail glasses are commonly used instead of Champagne goblets in modern versions of this drink. Lillet Blanc should be substituted with Cocchi Americano for a closer approximation of the original cocktail. dagger Vesper recipe at International Bartenders Association

The Vesper or Vesper Martini is a cocktail that was originally made of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet. The formulations of its ingredients have changed since its original publication in print, and so some modern bartenders have created new versions which attempt to more closely mimic the original taste.


The drink was invented and named by Ian Fleming in the 1953 James Bond novel Casino Royale.

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'

'Oui, monsieur.'

'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 think of a good name.'

— Casino Royale, Chapter 7: Rouge et Noir[1]

Fleming continues with Bond telling the barman, after taking a long sip, "Excellent ... but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better," and then adds in an aside, "Mais n'enculons pas des mouches"[1] ("But let's not bugger flies"—a vulgar French expression meaning "let's not split hairs"). Felix Leiter jokingly suggests Bond name his drink the Molotov Cocktail.

In the next chapter, "Pink Lights and Champagne", Bond names the drink the Vesper. At the time of his first introduction to the beautiful Vesper Lynd, he asks her name by saying: "I can't drink the health of your new frock without knowing your Christian name." After learning her name, Bond decides that it is perfect for his recently invented cocktail. He tells Vesper that his search for a name is over if she will permit him to name the drink after her.

A Vesper differs from Bond's usual cocktail of choice, the martini, in that it uses both gin and vodka, Kina Lillet instead of the usual dry vermouth, and a lemon peel instead of an olive. Although there is a lot of discussion about the Vesper, it is only ordered by Bond once throughout Fleming's novels – although Bond drinks the Vesper in the film Casino Royale[2] – and by later books Bond is ordering vodka martinis, though he also drinks gin martinis. It may be that Fleming decided not to have Bond order a Vesper again due to the way in which Casino Royale ends.

In actuality, the book version of the Vesper was created by Fleming's friend Ivar Bryce. In Bryce's copy of Casino Royale Fleming inscribed "For Ivar, who mixed the first Vesper and said the good word." In his book You Only Live Once, Bryce details that Fleming was first served a Vesper, a drink of a frozen rum concoction with fruit and herbs, at evening drinks by the butler of an elderly couple in Jamaica, the Duncans, the butler commenting, "'Vespers' are served." Vespers or evensong is the sixth of the seven canonical hours of the divine office and are observed at sunset, the 'violet hour', Bond's later chosen hour of fame for his martini Vesper.[3]

Contemporary versions[edit]

Since Kina Lillet was discontinued in 1986 and the proof of Gordon's Gin was cut in 1992, the original recipe can no longer be made exactly. Substitutes can be made that attempt to recapture the original flavour of the drink:

  • For a more traditional flavour, 50% (100-proof) vodka is used to bring the alcohol content of the vodka back to 1953 levels, with grain vodka being preferred.[4]
  • Lillet Blanc is still available, but Kina Lillet additionally included quinine (hence its name).[4][5] Cocchi Americano can be used as a substitute to recreate the original recipe,[6] which has a more bitter finish than using Lillet Blanc.[7]
  • Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, or Broker's gin provides the traditional flavour of 47% (94 proof) gin, whereas Gordon's Gin, in the UK domestic market, has been cut to 37.5% (75 proof); in spite of this, a 47.3% (94.6 proof) export version of Gordon's Gin still exists today.[4] (The extra dilution caused by shaking is the reason to prefer it over stirring in this high-alcohol drink.)

Esquire printed the following update of the recipe in 2006:

Shake (if you must) with plenty of cracked ice. 3 oz Tanqueray gin, 1 oz 100-proof [50%] Stolichnaya vodka, 12 oz Lillet Blanc, 18 teaspoon (or less) quinine powder or, in desperation, 2 dashes of bitters. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and twist a large swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

The recipe concluded, "Shoot somebody evil."[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fleming, Ian (1953). Casino Royale. Glidrose Productions. p. 45. ISBN 0-14-200202-X.
  2. ^ "Vesper Martini". 3 January 2007.
  3. ^ Bryce, Ivar (1975). You Only Live Once - Memories of Ian Fleming (Biography). Weidenfeld and Nicolson Productions. p. 106. ISBN 0-297-77022-5.
  4. ^ a b c "The Vesper". Summer Fruit Cup. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  5. ^ Embury, David (1948). The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Doubleday.
  6. ^ Hyslop, Leah (19 June 2015). "How to make a James Bond martini". The Telegraph.
  7. ^ Serious Eats, The Vesper Cocktail Recipe
  8. ^ Wondrich, David. "James Bond Walks Into A Bar... and orders a Vesper, a cocktail that hasn't aged too well. Here, a remake." Esquire magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2016.

External links[edit]