James Bond's Vesper Martini

Vesper martini recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
282 Calories
0g Fat
3g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 282
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 8mg 39%
Calcium 9mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 25mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Every James Bond fan knows this recipe as the first martini that Bond ordered in Ian Fleming's 1953 book, "Casino Royale" (or the 2006 movie). Named after the seductive double agent Vesper Lynd, it is possibly the most famous drink order in history and extremely precise. Recreating the Vesper martini at home is easy, but it also requires interpretation.

This drink is purely fictional. It was created by the author in his first book about the now-famous British Secret Intelligence Service agent and has also become known as the "James Bond martini." As any devotee of the books or movies knows, Bond is very fond of fine cocktails, and this was certainly not the last drink in the series. In fact, the Vesper received just that single mention, and the vodka and gin martinis were served far more often as the series progressed.

The Vesper martini is interesting because it combines gin and vodka with Kina Lillet (commonly substituted with Lillet Blanc or dry vermouth). It's a very potent mix, and Fleming (er, Bond) is very particular about two ingredients: Kina Lillet is no longer available, and the gin has changed significantly since the '50s, so the original formula requires adaptation.

The Vesper is a fascinating cocktail. Compared to the gin martini, it has a slightly sweet, bitter taste contributed by Lillet, while the vodka tames the gin's botanicals. It's a drink that both gin and vodka drinkers can appreciate and fun to tweak to your personal taste.

0:48

Click Play to See This Vesper Martini Recipe Come Together

"Regardless of the mystique surrounding it, the Vesper is a darn good cocktail. Its composition is unlike other martini variations as it combines gin and vodka. Seems arbitrary, but it works quite well. The vodka tempers the botanicals in the gin and gives the cocktail a pleasant levity." —Tom Macy

James Bond Vesper Martini Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces gin

  • 1 ounce vodka

  • 1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc, or dry vermouth

  • Lemon peel, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Vesper martini
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc or dry vermouth.

    Pouring ingredients into the cocktail shaker
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  3. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Straining the Vesper into a glass
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  4. Garnish with a large piece of lemon peel. Serve and enjoy.

    Vesper martini
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Shaken, Not Stirred

The recipe is easy enough, though many people prefer to stir it. The shake may actually be a good thing because it ensures extra dilution in this stiff drink.

How Strong Is a Vesper Martini?

It's said that vodka in the '50s was often bottled at 100 proof and that Gordon's was 94 proof at the time (it's since been reformulated). Factoring those numbers in, the Vesper could easily be a 39 percent ABV (78 proof) cocktail. That's equivalent to a straight shot of most vodkas on the market today. It's also worth noting that this recipe creates a nearly 5-ounce drink with proper dilution, which is almost double the average alcohol-only martini.

Anytime there's a debate over shaking versus stirring cocktails, one can't help but think of Bond's famous line, "shaken, not stirred." It first appeared in Fleming's 1956 novel, "Diamonds Are Forever." Bond drank many gin and vodka martinis throughout the books, and shaken cocktails seemed to be his preference. However, the general bartending "rule" is to stir liquor-only cocktails to avoid too much dilution.

Interpreting Bond's Vesper Martini

Here's how to make the Vesper according to Ian Fleming and James Bond: "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?" ("​Casino Royale," Chapter 7.)

The Kina Lillet (pronounced lee-lay) that Bond speaks of is a French aromatized wine that is no longer produced. It included quinine, which is also used in tonic water and contributes a bitter taste. Lillet Blanc replaced Kina Lillet, and it also originally included quinine, but that ingredient was dropped in the 1980s. Today's Lillet Blanc is softer and similar to dry vermouth (a fortified wine), only noticeably sweeter without the bitterness.

Recipe Variations

To bring back the Vesper's hint of bitterness:

  • Swap out the Lillet Blanc for Cocchi Americano, which carries the bitter note of the James Bond-era Kina Lillet.
  • Use Lillet Blanc and add about 3 dashes of aromatic bitters.

What's the Best Gin and Vodka for a Vesper Martini?

The Gordon's Gin available in the U.S. today is different than that found in the United Kingdom. Neither is the same Gordon's that Fleming knew because the recipe and strength have changed. While Gordon's is a good everyday gin, there are now plenty of better options to choose from. Nearly any top-shelf gin with a bold botanical profile will make a nice Vesper. Many people prefer Tanqueray or Beefeater, though some like the fruitier Plymouth Gin. As for the vodka, don't worry about the strength, and pour your favorite premium vodka.