James Bond's Famous Vesper Martini

Vesper Martini

The Spruce Eats

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 cocktail (1 serving)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
483 Calories
0g Fat
12g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 cocktail (1 serving)
Amount per serving
Calories 483
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 0g
Calcium 0mg 0%
*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 Vesper Lynd character, 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, one created by the author in his first book about the now-famous British Secret Service agent. It's even become known as the "Bond martini." Of course, 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.

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 of the ingredients involved. Kina Lillet is no longer available and the other has changed significantly since the '50s, so the original Vesper martini requires adaptation. It is a fascinating cocktail and worthy of your time to try out all of its variations.

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Ingredients

  • 3 ounces gin (Gordon's)
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc (or dry vermouth)
  • Garnish: lemon peel

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine the ingredients.

  3. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

  4. Garnish with a large piece of lemon peel.

  5. Serve and enjoy!

Shaken, Not Stirred

The recipe is easy enough, though many people prefer to stir it like they do a classic gin martini. The shake is actually a good thing here because it dilutes the drink, which is very heavy on the alcohol.

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.

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, though it's unclear why, stirring 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. Kina Lillet was replaced by Lillet Blanc and it also originally included quinine, but that ingredient was dropped in the 1980s. Without the bitterness, today's Lillet Blanc is softer and similar to dry vermouth (a fortified wine), only noticeably sweeter.

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.

The Gordon's Gin available in the U.S. today is different than that found in the United Kingdom. They're both different than the 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. Pretty much 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 mentioned, the vodka Bond would have likely drank (had he not been a fictional character, of course) was probably 100 proof. These are not the easiest bottles to find, though brands like Absolut, New Amsterdam, and Svedka are available. Don't worry about the strength and pour your favorite premium vodka if you like.