License to Kill: Ian Fleming and the Vesper Martini
We’re celebrating the birthday of novelist Ian Fleming (May 28, 1908 – August 12, 1964) with the cocktail created by his fictional alter ego: the Vesper.
Fleming invented the Vesper in the James Bond novel Casino Royale in 1953. 007 orders a dry martini in a deep champagne goblet, giving the bartender very specific instructions on the ingredients and preparation: “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.”
Everyone at the bar is impressed with the order, including Bond.
“I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like 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. The drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name.”
It doesn’t take Bond long to find a good name for the creation (the next chapter, in fact). He calls the cocktail a Vesper shortly after meeting double agent Vesper Lynd.
To give credit where credit is due, though, Fleming was first introduced to the cocktail by his friend Ivar Bryce. Fleming acknowledged the debt, inscribing in his friend’s copy of Casino Royale: “For Ivar, who mixed the first Vesper and said the good word.”
A Vesper is different than a traditional dry martini as it uses both gin and vodka. Kina Lillet is no longer available, but we find Cocchi Americano a good substitute that comes close to the original recipe. We deviate from the original recipe by stirring the ingredients, rather than shaking them. Either way, the end result is an elegant cocktail with a smoothness that is as lethal as a license to kill.
3 oz London dry gin
1 oz vodka
½ oz Cocchi Americano
Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Pour into a coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.