Vesper Cocktail

By Robert Hess

Ian Fleming's protagonist in Casino Royale, better known as James Bond, needed an emblematic tipple. Employing the services of his favorite bartender at Duke's Hotel in London, Ian came up with the Vesper, which eventually took its name from Vesper Lynd, another spy in the books. This now iconic vodka cocktail has become synonymous with 007. Shaken, not stirred? Not when Robert's mixing it up!

Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 oz Vodka

1 1/2 oz Gin

1/4 Lillet Blanc

Instructions

Stir with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist.

Comments
Fred 5 Apr 2011
8:21 am

I’ve added a dash of Angostura bitters in lieu of the quinine. What do you think? (Not my invention—I think I read it some place.)

xian 5 Apr 2011
10:00 am

Hey Robert;  Jason Wilson of the the Washington Post suggest using “Cocchi Americano” in lieu of Kana Lillet or today’s lillet Blanc as it has more of the original flavor of the original.

Mike S. 5 Apr 2011
10:06 am

Great video on what has become one of my favorite drinks, and certainly my favorite Martini variation.  As a result, I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with it, and offer the following thoughts from this end of the peanut gallery:

Beefeater is a great gin to use in this drink; Tanqueray also works brilliantly.  Point being you want a standard-profile, straight-forward London Dry Gin ideally with a proof range in the 90s.  Fleming of course called for Gordon’s, but the Gordon’s we get here in the US does not work due to its 80 proof alcohol content and what I believe is a slightly different recipe.  If you can get the genuine article from England, I’m told it’s the best of all, but I’ve never had the fortune to try it.  All that said, when I’m feeling really extravagant, I reach for my bottle of Cadenhead’s Old Raj Blue Label at a whopping 110 proof and that hint of pale yellow color.  It’s stunningly good in this drink.

Absolute is an interesting choice for the vodka here (I understand the reason…), and one that I’ve never tried.  Typically, I prefer a 100 proof vodka, and my favorite for this drink is Stolichnaya Blue Label from Russia.  Smirnoff Blue Label (No. 57) is also excellent.  The point here is that vodka was almost always bottled at 100 proof or higher at the time this drink was created (or so I understand) and I try to preserve that element when I make it.  Perhaps I’ll try one with Absolute 100….

Most critically for me, however, is the “Lillet Issue.”  When I first started making this drink, I used Lillet Blanc because that’s all that was available.  I was always underwhelmed and frankly could never figure out what all the fuss was about; the drink never did anything for me.  Then I finally got my hands on a bottle of Cocchi Americano and the blinders came off!  Cocchi Americano is a white-wine based aperitivo from Italy very similar to Lillet Blanc but has that spicy, bitter undertone we’re told was the hallmark of the old Kina Lillet.  It’s an amazing product all by itself (love it over ice with an orange twist), and for me it quite simply *makes* a Vesper…well…a Vesper.  Try it and you’ll never use Lillet Blanc in your Vespers again.

Lastly, I respectfully disagree on stirring Vespers.  Fleming wrote them shaken, Bond ordered them shaken, and shaken they shall be (at least at my house!).  Cheers and great series as always.

Mike

Robert Hess 5 Apr 2011
10:12 am

Fred, a dash of Angostura isn’t going to replace the flavor of the quinine that was in Kina Lillet (and not nearly as strong in Lillet Blanc), better to use Cocchi Americano as Xian and Mike have recommended. It can always be fun to experiment with different brands of products in a cocktail to determine if it makes a difference, and which you prefer.

bwcarroll 5 Apr 2011
5:09 pm

Sounds like I’m going to need to get some Cocchi Americano to try. As a variation on the Vesper, I have replaced the Lillet with St. Germain (at the house of a friend with a poorly and incoherently stocked liquor cabinet).  Ends up being a very different drink, but I think it works quite well (I’m generally not a St. Germain fan).

D.Ronen 5 Apr 2011
9:30 pm

All great suggestions! I’ve played with a handful of fun spirits to find a happy medium between an authentic Vesper and something that would possibly bring vodka drinks more into gin (while releasing that “spy within” themselves, of course). My favorite has been 1.5oz Beefeater24, 1oz FAIR.Quinoa Vodka, 0.5oz Lillet. Astounding weight, texture, flavor and you taste all the components. Another favorite is the same build, but Gin 209 instead of B24 (just replacing it with another numbered gin…), then add a dash of Fee’s plum bitters. The cardamom in Gin 209 just pops. And yes, Cocchi anyday!

Federico Cuco 23 Apr 2011
1:08 pm

Thanks Mike S. for the Explanation.
I’ll try ton find a bottle of Cocchi Americano .
But I think that bottle like many other is not available in my part of the work.
Chers!
Best regards from argentina to all

Federico Cuco

Ginty 5 Jun 2012
4:08 pm

Anyone try switching the vodka and Lillet ratios around? More Lillet and less vodka? Sipping it right now, and my tastebuds seem to prefer it that way. Thoughts?

steve7500 27 Jun 2012
12:57 pm

This is wild ! I’ll go broke trying all of these - - - but I probably will. I am def. going to try the COCCHI . I really like the Vesper Martini and have found a combo that I like; use 2 oz of BOODLES GIN, 1 oz of TITOS VODKA ,1/2 oz of Lillet Blanc. I use a small slice of Lemon Zest as too much will really over power this drink. Thanks t o all.

JT Thomas 23 Feb 2013
4:11 pm

You have to shake this one.  Not only is it part of the original recipe, and not only should a drink named after a spy be cloudy to begin with, but a shaken martini has a very different flavor (frankly a less pleasant one to my mind) than a stirred one.  It seems to me, and I’ve tried this a couple of times with a couple different gins (Hendricks, Tanq, and Plymonth), shaking emphasizes the more bitter flavors in the gin, and, particularly since Bond specified an extra long shake, the mouthfeel will be very different.  Finally, as relates to both shaking and Kina Lillet/Cocchi Americano, if I am recalling the parts of the books that suggest the name for the drink, remember, Bond was looking for a bitter drink to go with a very bitter regret. This one should balance to the bitter side.
+1 to the 100 proof vodka comments, for the same reasons.

Post a Comment
You must be registered and logged in to post comments.

Register for a New Account

-->