Classic Cocktail Origins: The Vesper

Invented and made famous by author Ian Fleming in his hugely popular James Bond book series, the Vesper is a stiff, no-nonsense cocktail that’s forever associated with the phrase “shaken, not stirred.”

As 007 says in Casino Royale, chapter 7:

“When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that 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. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

The drink has undergone several changes since Bond’s famous first outing, with Gordon’s Gin reformulating in 1953 and Kina Lillet changing 30 years later, causing bartenders to substitute ingredients in order to recapture the Vesper’s original flavor. 100-proof grain vodka is the closest approximation to 1950s-level alcohol content and similarly, Tanqueray, Bombay variations, or Broker’s gins are strong proof than the diluted Gordon’s of the original.

Furthermore, Bond’s original concoction was constructed in a Champagne goblet, but has since moved to a traditional cocktail glass since the Vesper’s debut.

In light of Bond’s return to the big screen with Casino Royale in 2006, Esquire’s David Wondrich reestablished the Vesper with a new, updated recipe:

“Shake (if you must) with plenty of cracked ice:

– 3 oz. Tanqueray gin

– 1 oz. 100-proof Stolichnaya vodka

– 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc

– 1/8 teaspoon (or less) quinine powder or, in desperation, 2 dashes of bitters

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and twist a large swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top. Shoot somebody evil.”

Next time you find yourself in a tailored suit and a Bond-like mood, we’d recommend our bartenders’ versions of the famed Vesper, so make it your mission to visit Tin Lizzie Lounge in Lower Queen Anne, Seattle.

Good luck, 007.

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