“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Just a moment. 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?”
“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 can think of a good name.” —Ian Fleming, (1953)
The Vesper Martini appears in the first James Bond novel, Casino Royal, and despite the fact that it is an excellent drink, never appears in another Bond novel. You will have a hard time making a true to the original Vesper, as many of the products have been changed since 1953. For example, the gin specified is Gordon’s, which in the 1980’s was reduced in proof from the traditional 94 to 80. In addition, Kina Lillet, the bitter fortified wine called for has been reformulated to contain less quinine, and therefore is missing the bitter kick that it once had.
If you are wanting to make this drink, there are several suggestions of which to take note of. Firstly, a traditional London Dry Gin of high proof such as Tanqueray is recommended. The vodka should be 100 proof as well, and of russian origin. Stolichnaya makes a 100 proof that works well. As for the Kina Lillet, one option is to add some quinine powder to the drink. The other option is to use Cocchi Americano, another fortified wine that is reportedly similar in taste to the original Kina Lillet.
One other recommendation I would take, is to half the recipe, or split it between two friends. 4 oz of 100 proof spirit is a lot for anyone to ingest at one time, and as Harry Craddock said in the Savoy Cocktail Book, a cocktail should be consumed “quickly…while it’s laughing at you”. A smaller cocktail ensures that the drink stays cold while you drink it, and perhaps is better for propriety’s sake anyways. Cheers!
3 oz Gin
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc