James Bond might be a Martini man, but he invented the Vesper. In Ian Fleming’s novel, Casino Royale, agent 007 instructs a bartender to mix “three measures Gordon’s, one of vodka, a half measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well, until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” Not only does Bond show off his knowledge of lovely aperitifs with his call for Kina Lillet in the cocktail, but he also proves himself an ace drinker by splitting the base between vodka and gin—a move that balances the cocktail while heightening all of the citrusy, lightly herbal flavors. Bond named the cocktail the Vesper in honor of a woman he would come to love (despite her betrayal), lose and pine for. Much like the femme fatale for which it is named, a true Vesper is, sadly, gone from the world and impossible to resurrect today. Kina Lillet, the quintessential quinquina (a type of aperitif) in the cocktail, was discontinued in the late 1960s. When a zombified version was brought back in 1986, it was sweeter and less nuanced than its former self, a betrayal worse than acting as a double agent for the Russians. Don’t worry; you can still drink like Bond by substituting a readily available quinquina or aperitif mixture that mimics the original Kina Lillet. Just as we disagree with Bond’s later decision to order Martinis shaken instead of properly stirred, we nixed the shaking in Fleming’s original Vesper recipe. Stirring the cocktail maintains its strength, and lets all of the ingredients really shine.
Mix it Up
If your only goal in drinking a Vesper is to emulate the British secret agent, then do feel free to shake your Vesper. No one will judge you for a slightly weaker drink if you down it with all of debonair 007’s panache.
Recommended Gins: Bombay London Dry, Tanqueray, Beefeater, Hayman’s Royal Dock, Dorothy Parker Gin
Recommended Kina Lillet Replacements: Tempus Fugit Kina L'Aero D'Or Aperitif Du Quinquina (the closest to the original, but hard to find and expensive), Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc
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