Everyone knows that Bond likes his Vesper martini shaken not stirred. But what exactly IS a Vesper martini? And how do you make one that's good enough to impress even Daniel Craig? Steve Manktelow, drink expert from Goat Chelsea, explains.
My first exposure to Ian Fleming was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I must have watched an easy 20 or 30 times, at an age when I hadn't even heard of the world's most famous spy. It was the all-flying all-swimming car which stole the show, and I think primed me for liking Q and his wonderful gadgets. So when I finally got around to watching my first Bond, Octopussy, some years later, I was hooked.
He must be the world's only secret agent to fastidiously introduce himself by his own name and yet somehow remain covert.
James Bond is more than a little quirky; he must be the world's only secret agent to fastidiously introduce himself by his own name and yet somehow remain covert. The biggest surprise to a more modern audience however must really be his relationship with alcohol. A university study five years ago worked out that he went through between 65 and 92 units of alcohol per week, about four-five times the recommended amount, and enough to warrant more than a mere disapproving look from your GP. Not really the level-headed gentleman you want gambling for world security in a casino in the south of France.
Out of all the drinks Bond has casual relationships with, the most famous is the Vesper martini.
The Vesper appears in Casino Royale while Bond is on the trail of Le Chiffre, while at the casino he orders:
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
In his words, 007 likes to ensure that when he's 'concentrating' he never has more than one drink before dinner. And when limiting yourself, best to make it something worth drinking.
The legend behind its creation centres on Ian Fleming. He used to frequent Dukes, a hotel bar off St James's, and the story goes that he wasn’t a massive gin fan and liked his martinis a little lighter in flavour, so he had the bartender cut the gin with vodka. The Kina Lillet — another quirk — is very similar to a vermouth if not a little sweeter and works beautifully in any martini.
The name comes from a tryst earlier in Fleming's life. While working in Britain’s Naval Intelligence he met Christine Granville, one of the most successful British agents to work behind enemy lines; codename Vesperale. He liked the name so much that his friends used to drink a rum, fruit and herb concoction which they called Vespers during the time he was writing Casino Royale. The recipe didn’t quite fit into the narrative, but the name stuck.
It's something to drink quickly to help get you over that last terrible poker hand — although definitely not the kind of thing you want coursing through your veins while driving an Aston Martin at top speed
Martini purists shy away from shaking martinis, unlike Bond. It makes quite a different cocktail. Shaking dilutes the drink a little more, and chills it down better, making it a superior choice if you're craving something ice cold and a little easier to quaff — something to drink quickly to help get you over that last terrible poker hand. (Although it's definitely not the kind of thing you want coursing through your veins while driving an Aston Martin at top speed along windy roads around the Cote d'Azure.)
It also creates a drink higher in antioxidants, although we're not sure Bond has that in mind when ordering the cocktail.
How to make the perfect Vesper martini
- 6 parts gin. I would choose a masculine gin like Duck and Crutch with its nutmeg and walnut notes
- 2 parts vodka. It really should be Russian
- 1 part Lillet Blanc
Shake vigorously over a little ice, and serve with a twist of lemon peel, while saying something witty.
Unsurprisingly it appears that Bond's choice in cocktails normally lasts as long as his women; sadly the Vesper only appeared in Fleming's first book and our favourite spy is yet to order a second.