The History of the Vesper Cocktail

This classic cocktail was not created by some superstar mixologist in a high-class bar, or adapted from some ancient naval recipe. In fact, the Vesper Martini is so intrinsically linked with Ian Fleming's spy series that it is often referred to as Bond's Vesper. The secret agent is thought to be the first person to introduce the drink to the world, despite being a fictional character.

How James Bond Created the Vesper

It was in Fleming's first Bond book, Casino Royale, that James Bond gives us very distinct instructions as to how a Vesper should be made. Based on the original Martini recipe, the Vesper adds an extra dimension, made with three measures of Gordon's gin, one measure of vodka and half a measure of Kina Lillet, an aromatised wine. He requests for it to be served in a champagne goblet glass and with a large lemon peel garnish. Of course, we all know that he likes his drinks "shaken, not stirred" and he also suggests that the cocktail would be better with a grain-based vodka.

Later on in the book, he meets the beautiful Vesper Lynd, who he falls in love with but turns out to be a double agent. She asks him to name his cocktail concoction after her and he happily obliges. {Spoiler alert!} She dies in the end but throughout the series she is referred to as the only woman Bond ever loved.

What's In A Name?

As is so common with authors, a story is often conceived off the back of a real-life experience. Fleming's background was in naval intelligence, and it was during his time as part of World War II that he was introduced to Krystyna Skarbek, or Christine Granville, since she was a British secret agent. The beautiful Christine had many alias', one of which was Vésperale. It is thought that Fleming may have had a brief affair with this agent, but even if he did not, it seems likely that she was the muse for the very first Bond girl and subsequent potent cocktail.

How the Cocktail has Evolved

It is actually almost impossible to create a Vesper in the same way that Bond wanted, since the company no longer makes Kina Lillet. Most people replace this ingredient with Lillet Blanc, which works well, but some say it is not as good. The main difference between the two spirits is that the Kina Lillet contained quinine, a component which makes the liquid extremely bitter, therefore dramatically altering the taste of the cocktail.

Some mixologists have found a way to replicate the taste of the original by infusing their vodka with cinchona bark which is highly rich in quinine. This returns that bitter edge to the drink that 007 so much enjoyed.

So, this popular beverage has been brought to us by a fictional character, proving to us all just how influential our favourite super sleuth really is!

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Bartender's top tip

Balancing flavors is key in mixology. A dash of bitters or a hint of citrus can elevate a cocktail, turning a good drink into an exceptional one. Always experiment and refine.

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