Adventures In Mixology: The Vesper Martini (Or Why James Bond is an Idiot)

President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet: Can I tell you what’s messed up about James Bond?

Charlie Young: Nothing.

President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet: Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.

“Stirred” The West Wing.

In Casino Royale, Bond goes to the bar and orders a martini, but not just any martini. He gives the barman the following recipe: “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.” Bond soon explains the basis of his drink to American agent Felix Leiter.

“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.”

By the end of the novel, Bond names the drink after his lost love, the double agent Vesper Lynd. Despite the mystique that has surrounded getting a martini “shaken, not stirred,” there are those like President Bartlet and American mixologist David Wondrich that maintain that 007 is an idiot as far as drink mixing is concerned. According to Wondrich, Bond only checks off half of the requirements he set up for the drink he desires. It is certainly large and strong, but drinks are colder stirred than shaken. It is debatable as to wheter or not it is a very well made drink, as the vodka and Lillet do little to cut the sharpness of the gin and leaves the drinker with a very dry drink. It is worth noting that Ian Fleming never wrote about Bond ordering another Vesper.

As for ingredients, since the 1960s, the recipe for Gordon’s has changed. In Bond’s day, it was about 94 proof and has since dropped to below 80 proof. It has been suggested that Tanqueray should be used in place of Gordon’s, as it is still 94 proof. Additionally, Kina Lillet is no longer produced and many now use Lillet Blanc in its place.

The Vesper

  • 3 Ounce London dry gin
  • 1 Ounce vodka
  • 1/2 Ounce Lillet Blanc

About Michael Darling
Collector of the interesting and absurd.

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