The Vesper martini from Casino Royale

January 13, 2007 8:17 pm Published by

martiniOne thing I was happy to see in Casino Royale was the appearance of the Vesper. This drink is featured in the book and, as in the film, it was concocted by 007 himself and later named after the heroine.

Now, one of the ingredients in the Vesper is Kina Lillet and author Kinsley Amis took Ian Fleming to task about this. Amis’s take on it (in The Book of Bond) was that the quinine content of Kina Lillet was too high and the drink would be too bitter and what Fleming really meant was Lillet vermouth. It is interesting to note that the film makers cock a snoot at Amis because Vesper mentions at one point that the drink has a bitter aftertaste.

However, Kina Lillet is no longer available – the name was changed long ago to plain a simple Lillet and later Lillet Blanc (when they introduced a red version). Finally in the 1980s the recipe was altered to make it much less bitter, so the film makers decided to go with Fleming on this rather than fact. Anyway, I recently saw an article that mentioned adding quinine powder or bitters to the drink to give it that genuine Fleming touch, so decided to give it a go. Lillet isn’t easy to find, but you can order it online to do this test and no, vermouth won’t do.

So which version of the drink wins, with or without the bitterness? No contest actually, the version with a couple of drops of bitters included does make a better drink, the bitter-less version is powerful but missing something, so my take on this is that Fleming did get it right after all.

Here’s the recipe:

3 measures of Gordon’s gin
1 measure of vodka
½ measure of Kina Lillet (buy it in the UK or US)
2 drops bitters (optional)

Shake until ice cold and serve in a deep champagne goblet with a large thin slice of lemon peel

What do you think?


The James Bond Cocktail Bar ebook

Kina Lillet – UK supplier

Kina Lillet – US supplier

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This post was written by David

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