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James Bond's Vodka Martini - The Vesper


Original Receipt in the first James Bond novel 'Casino Royale', published in 1953.

Mr Bond has met up with CIA agent Felix Leiter at a bar ...

"A dry martini," he said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."
"Oui, monsieur."
"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?"
"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
... "This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."
[the necessary femmme fatale arives]
"Vesper," she said. "Vesper Lynd."...
"I think it's a fine name," said Bond. An idea struck him. "Can I borrow it?"
He explained about the special martini he had invented and his search for a name for it. "The Vesper," he said.
"It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?"
"So long as I can try one first," she promised. "It sounds a drink to be proud of."

Kina Lillet is not Martini, but a similar bitter-sweet vermouth-style drink made at Podensac, near Bordeaux, using white wine and bitter oranges. It was very popular in the Britain of the 1920's. The Lillet company still give the 'Vesper' receipt just as Ian Fleming wrote it for Bond. But today's Lillet lacks the bitter quinine ('kina') tang of the original, so that those seeking to re-create the original taste might want to add a dash of tonic or cocktail bitters.

Shaking, rather than stirring, a cocktail with ice will tend to dissolve more water in it, making for a weaker drink. Ideal for the secret agent who wants to keep his wits about him.

Bond's inventor, Ian Fleming sent to 'The Manchester Guardian' newspaper on 5th April 1958 a lengthy defence of his character's supposed traits, including; "One of the reasons why I chose the pseudonym of James Bond for my hero rather than, say, Peregrine Maltravers was that I wished him to be unobtrusive. Exotic things would happen to and around him but he would be a neutral figure - an anonymous blunt instrument wielded by a Government Department. But to create an illusion of depth I had to fit Bond out with some theatrical pops I proceeded to invent a cocktail for Bond (which I sampled several months later and found unpalatable)"

The doctors' report in the 2013 festive edition of the British Medical Journal stated: "Although we appreciate the societal pressures to consume alcohol when working with international terrorists and high stakes gamblers, we would advise Bond to be referred for further assessment of his alcohol intake."
Patrick Davies, a consultant in paediatric intensive care at Nottingham University Hospitals, told the BBC: "You wouldn't want this person defusing a nuclear bomb. He's a very glamorous person, he gets all the girls and that's totally incompatible with the lifestyle of an alcoholic, which he is." He said Bond would be classified in the "top whack" of problem drinkers and would be at high risk of liver damage, an early death and impotence.

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