“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?”
“I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very well-made.”
– James Bond
James Bond first ordered the Vesper Martini in the 1953 spy novel Casino Royale. You can also catch him ordering it in the 2006 movie adaptation. Like the quote says, this cocktail is very large, very strong, but very tasty. The Vesper is my favourite take on the Martini, and not only because I secretly want to be 007.
This cocktail looks pretty easy to make until you come to the 3rd ingredient: Kina Lillet. What the heck is that? Kina Lillet, known currently as Lillet Blanc, is an aperitif wine from the Bordeaux region of France. Established in 1872, the brand became popular in the 1950s (not surprisingly, around the time that Mr. Bond sipped his first Vesper). This wine is sold widely in North America and can be found in any decent liquor store.
The original Kina Lillet recipe was changed in the 1980s when it was re-branded as Lillet Blanc. The new recipe has a fruitier and less bitter taste to it. As such, the flavours of the current Vesper may differ from what James Bond originally ordered. Some people get around this problem by adding a couple of dashes of bitters to the recipe (oh no, looks like you’re going to have to try two drinks!). I prefer the taste without the added bitters, but to each their own.
Many connoisseurs feel that an alternative way to recreate the bitterness of the original Kina Liilet is to substitute it with Cocchi Americano, a slightly more bitter Italian Vermouth. Depending on where you live, however, this ingredient may be more difficult to track down.
The original recipe also calls for Gordon’s Gin. I prefer using a higher-end gin instead (I thoroughly enjoy Dillon’s Gin, a distillery located in Ontario). I recommend you pick your favourite. And no one will be upset with you if you use Beefeater’s (That’s what the recipe calls for on Lillet’s official website).
3 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Vodka
½ oz Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano
A couple of dashes of bitters (optional, and only if using Lillet Blanc)
SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED, in a cocktail shaker with ice. Serve straight up in a martini glass with a twist of lemon to garnish.
Enjoy your Vesper Martini. You didn’t stir it, did you?