Vesper Martini #NationalMartiniDay

THE James Bond Martini

Vesper Martini

By Bill Lau | Potable Pastime

Happy National Martini Day to you all! I’ve had Martini on my list of drinks recipes I need to blog for some time now, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity (or is that excuse?) to get off my mixological behind and post one. But which one? A classic, traditional Martini? A typical dry Martini? Somehow those seemed a bit anticlimactic after waiting so long. A Cosmopolitan or Appletini? Nothing wrong with them, just not so much my style.

Then I thought of the Vesper. I’d never tried one, but been interested. This is the drink that Daniel Craig as James Bond orders in the 2006 movie version of Casino Royale, naming the drink after the movie’s love interest, Vesper Lynd (as so wonderfully portrayed by Eva Green). The drink was originally introduced to the world by author Ian Fleming in the James Bond novel Casino Royale, and is not a drink for the faint of heart or easily inebriated. Take a look at those ingredients and quantities – we’re talking 4 full ounces of spirit (plus a wee bit extra). No wonder Bond called for it to be shaken, not stirred – it needs that little extra dilution of water. Even at that, more than one of these could leave you witless; certainly not the best condition for a spy! Probably why in the novel he says he only has one drink before dinner, but that it needs to be “large and very strong and very cold and very well-made”.

Personally, I found this to be very drinkable, without the ‘rocket fuel’ impression I sometimes get from a traditional Martini, in spite of all that booze. But then I did use a decent amount of ice and shook it vigorously so it was indeed “very cold”.  Your results will no doubt depend on a myriad of factors, including your palate, amount (and even size) of ice, how long you shake the drink, your mood, and even possibly the phase of the moon. Not to worry; it’s only a cocktail, not rocket surgery!

Now the drink originally called for Kina Lillet, an aromatized wine taking the place of vermouth in the traditional Martini, which has since been discontinued and replaced by Lillet Blanc. The new formulation is reputed to be sweeter than the original, which included cinchona bark liqueur in its formulation (a bitter ingredient famous for making quinine, key ingredient in tonic water). I never tasted the original, and although the current label does mention quinquina, which is indeed quinine, a sample sip came across as a bit sweetish to me, hence the addition of a dash of bitters to ensure balance. By all means leave it out if you prefer; you can always taste and add it if you wish. (A hell of a lot easier than taking it out once it’s in there!)

I would add that I checked out a variety of bitters before going with Angostura (I have a little bitters sampler set, you see…) and found Angostura to taste like the optimal match for my palate. So yes, there are distinct differences in the many types of bitters available these days. (I also found one of them to offer a lot of potential for possible use in Tiki drinks – oh, joy! – but more on that in a future post.)

Without further ado then, here’s the recipe.


⦁ 3 oz Gordon’s London Dry Gin
⦁ 1 oz vodka (I chose Blue Ice American potato vodka; of course, 007 would no doubt welcome Russian vodka. Personally, I could see trying a Polish vodka in future, as I have some Polish heritage. Or Bluecoat, one of my faves.)
⦁ 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
⦁ dash Angostura Bitters (optional – I have since tried celery bitters and found it to be quite enjoyable as well)
⦁ Lemon peel for garnish

1. Shake all but lemon peel well with ice.
2. Strain into a coupe (wide-mouthed champagne goblet) and garnish with the lemon peel.
3. Enjoy!

Welcome to #NationalMartiniDay
Whether you enjoy your martini with vodka or gin, shaken or stirred, we’ve got some libations for your happy hour.

Disclosure: The author has received no reimbursement or compensation for this article. Brands mentioned are either the author’s suggestions or Ian Fleming’s.

And try not to muck it up, Bond.

3 thoughts on “Vesper Martini #NationalMartiniDay

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