Though James Bond, quintessential super spy and icon of debonair sophistication, prefers his trademark Martini “shaken, not stirred.” Ian Fleming’s character is credited with the invention of this variation, the Vesper. In the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, 007 pauses midway through ordering a traditional Martini and, as though struck by inspiration, amends his order with a specific set of instructions.
‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’
‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s [Gin], 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?’
‘Certainly monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
‘Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,’ said Leiter.
Bond laughed. ‘When I’m…er…concentrating,’ he explained, ‘I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name.’
Well we finally found a bottle of Lillet in a PA liquor store and decided it was time to sample Bond’s creation. Lillet is a fortified white wine, very similar to vermouth, with the addition of several botanical and citrus notes. This makes the Vesper a more complex cocktail than the simplicity of a Martini, both in execution and in flavor. As devoted as I am to Martinis, it is possible to suffer from drink fatigue. The Vesper’s a nice way to mix things up a little if you still want to stay in the same neighborhood.