Immortalised in fiction by Ian Fleming, we discover the real-world origins of 007’s famous drink
“A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Just a moment. 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?”
In Ian Fleming’s 1953 thriller Casino Royal, this is how James Bond famously invented his signature drink. It was only in a later chapter, once he’d been captivated by the beautiful Vesper Lynd, that he found a name to fit his creation.
And so, the Vesper Martini was born.
The Vesper Martini’s real-world origins
There’s no doubt that this is how the drink came to be documented in fiction, but where did the writer get his real-world inspiration? The mythology around the Vesper suggests it was formulated during one of Fleming’s trips to Dukes bar in London. At that time, acclaimed bartender Gilberto Preti presided over Dukes, serving perfect five-sip Martinis. They were, of course, the fashionable drink of the time – and what better tipple could Fleming have chosen for his suave, cosmopolitan protagonist?
Shaken, not stirred
Bond’s instruction to the bartender that his drink be shaken, not stirred, is the source of much speculation. Shaking a drink would, most likely, result in greater dilution. It also creates a slightly opaque drink as oxygen becomes trapped in the liquid and it slightly alters the texture of the liquid. Neither of these are qualities martini drinkers habitually seek out. But, undisputedly, it is the fastest method to ensure a drink is ice-cold, as few bartenders have the luxury of enough time to stir a drink to icy perfection.
Gin, vodka and… vermouth
The three ingredients 007 calls for are gin, vodka and vermouth. His preference for Gordon’s over No.3 we can excuse – our award-winning gin was yet to be invented when Fleming was drinking in Dukes.
Bond shows little preference when it comes to the vodka, though ours is Polish in tribute to the double agent Vesper Lynd. The question of vermouth is an interesting one, as 007’s preferred brand, Kina Lillet, is now consigned to cocktail history. But that shouldn’t deter Vesper aficionados. The recent resurgence in vermouth’s popularity means we are once again in a golden age for this kind of aromatised wine, with some incredibly complex examples available.
Try it at home
If the idea of a perfect, ice-cold pre-dinner Vesper Martini appeals, then Alessandro Palazzi’s preferred method to build the drink is as follows:
First, swirl a drop or two of bitters around an ice-cold martini glass, then pour in your chosen vermouth.
From the freezer (so neither shaking nor stirring is required), pour in a measure of vodka, followed by a measure of No.3 London Gin and finish with a slice of organic orange peel dropped into the glass. “When you drink it, the sweetness comes through,” says Alessandro. “It’s a complex Martini with the perfect balance of flavours.”
Or, for a ready to pour version of the classic, try our new No.3 Vesper Martini, available now.