Alcohol,  Drinks

The Vesper Cocktail (aka The Bond Cocktail)

By Patrick Kelly

Patrick and his wife Nicole own Top Dog Tours, a walking tour company with branches in New York City and Toronto.

As quarantine has dragged on, and my Netflix suggestion list has became more and more abysmal, I ended up going down a spy movie rabbit-hole which led me to a delicious drink that I’ve coined my “cocktail of the summer.” Why spy movies you ask? Exotic locations (which I wished I was traveling), intrigue, espionage, and explosions, what’s not to like? It started with a smattering of Mission Impossible movies, The Kingsman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but no true action spy thriller fan can get away without watching the grandaddy of the spy movie franchise, James Bond.

I’ve always been a fan of the man with a License to Kill, 007 himself. Ever since playing Goldeneye on the N64 with my friends and arguing over who got to play as Oddjob (he really was the best character), I’ve been hooked on Bond and all of his adventures. Returning to these classics seemed like a great treat and to be honest I hadn’t seen all of them. Over the weeks, I made my way through Connery and Moore, a quick dalliance with Dalton and over to Brosnan. Through out all of these films between the goofy villains and gorgeous Bond women you hear James order his famous martini cocktail, always shaken not stirred. This got me wondering, what actually is this drink? Luckily, I got the answer, during Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond in the 2006’s remake of Casino Royale. The cocktail is called the Vesper after the seductive Vesper Lynd.

Casino Royale has actually been adapted 3 times for the screen, all based off of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel from 1953 of the same name. In the novel, as well as the screenplay for the 2006 movie, James describes this drink as something of his own creation. The drink is purely fictional, one created by Fleming in his first book about the now-famous British Secret Service agent. Here’s how to make the Vesper according to Ian Fleming and James Bond: “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?” (Casino Royale”, Chapter 7.)

The Vesper martini is interesting because it combines gin and vodka with Kina Lillet (commonly substituted with Littet Blanc or dry vermouth). It’s a very potent mix and Fleming (or Bond) is very particular about two of the ingredients involved. Kina Lillet is no longer available and the others have changed significantly since the ‘50s, so the original Vesper martini requires a bit of adaptation.

I decided to take some of my favorite spirits to balance out the cocktail, but you can try different types and combinations to come up with a slightly different flavor.

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The Vesper Cocktail (aka The Bond Cocktail)

  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1x


  • 3 ounces (90 ml) gin
  • 1 ounce (30 ml) vodka
  • 1/2 ounce (15 ml) Lillet Blanc
  • Garnish: large lemon peel


  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine the ingredients.
  2. Shake (of course) until ice cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Preferably a martini glass. You gotta have style!)
  3. Garnish with a large piece of lemon peel.
  4. Serve and Enjoy! 

Patrick’s Version:

  1. Gin: I choose to use Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, it’s a crisp botanical forward gin that mixes well, isn’t overpowering, and goes very well with citrus
  2. Vodka: I personally like a grain vodka when mixing with other spirits as opposed to potato vodkas, my new favorite vodka currently is Haku Vodka, a 100% Japanese rice vodka that’s gluten free. Very smooth and hardly any after taste. It’s also around the same price point as Tito’s at a liquor store. Great vodka for martinis especially. 
  3. Lillet Blanc: This is really the ingredient that brings everything together, with it’s slight citrus note it really goes well with the lemon peel. I’ve seen versions that use dry vermouth but I think you really miss something. If you want something closer to the bitterness of Kina Lillet you can try Cocchi Americano instead. Lillet also comes in a Lillet Rosé if you want to feel adventurous.
  4. All of these ingredients, including Lillet, should be available at your local liquor store so no need to try too hard to hunt them down. It is a fascinating cocktail and worthy of your time to try out all of its variations.


Shaken, Not Stirred: Why do we do that? Many people prefer to stir it like they do a classic gin martini. The shake is actually a good thing here because it dilutes the drink, which is very heavy on the alcohol.  Part of that reason comes from the era when it was created. It’s said that vodka in the ‘50s was often bottled at 100 proof and that Gordon’s Gin was 94 proof at that time (it’s since been reformulated). Factoring those numbers in, the Vesper could easily be a 39 percent ABV (78 proof) cocktail. That’s equivalent to a straight shot of most vodkas on the market today.  Anytime there is a debate over shaking versus stirring cocktails, one can’t help but to think of Bond’s famous line. A general bartending “rule” is to stir liquor-only cocktails to avoid too much dilution, here I don’t think your going to miss too much. Go ahead a shake away!

Keywords: James Bond, cocktails, vodka, gin

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