In the world of martinis I like to think of a vodka martini as sort of an entry-level martini. A martini with training wheels. It can be jazzed up or dressed down. Shaken or stirred. It’s easy and fun and fairly forgiving. Then there’s the gin martini. This is the grown-up martini. It’s like a family sedan. Safe and reliable, and you can run it through the car wash when it gets a little “dirty”… Then there is this. The Vesper. This is not for the casual martini drinker. This is a midlife crisis Aston Martin bought on a whim and driven backwards down a hill in Monaco while trying to escape your lover’s enraged husband. It’s not for the faint of heart.
James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, first wrote the recipe for this martini in his 1953 novel Casino Royale, and it has since become an icon. During a high-stakes poker game, Bond takes a break from his traditional dry martini and gives the barman instructions on how to make this instead. I made this exactly to his specifications : 3 measures of vodka, 1 of gin, half a measure of Kina Lillet with a thin slice of lemon peel.
A note on Kina Lillet versus Lillet Blanc. Lillet is a blend of fortified Bordeaux wines, made in the village of Podensac in Southwest France. It’s similar to Vermouth. Kina Lillet was made following an original recipe that contained Quinquina, a quinine-based aromatized wine. In the 1980s the recipe was changed to omit the quinine, however it has since been added back. It’s said that the Lillet available today is not quite as sweet or as bitter as the original in Fleming’s recipe but I think it balances the base spirits in this cocktail perfectly. It’s also good on its own, and on some days I’ll have a small glass of Lillet over ice as an apéritif while I’m cooking dinner.
The Vesper Martini
From Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale
(for one drink)
3 oz vodka
1 oz London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Lillet
Slice a thin strip of peel from the lemon. Set aside. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix the vodka, gin and Lillet. Shake quickly, until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and twist the lemon peel over top to release some of the oil. Place the lemon twist on the side of the glass and serve.