Vesper Cocktail

The Vesper cocktail leaps straight from the pages of literature’s most popular spy (and most famous martini drinker), James Bond. Reformulated for today’s tastes, the Vesper is a boozy but balanced cocktail.

Vesper Cocktail on the Counter and in the Background, Another Glass on a Silver Tray

Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

While James Bond is known for his martini (shaken, not stirred), it wasn’t his only tipple of choice. Readers of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel “Casino Royale” will recognize the Vesper cocktail—a more bitter take on the martini. 

Named after his love interest, and (spoiler alert) double agent, the original recipe from Bond was as follows: “'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.” 

If you’re thinking, wow, that sounds boozy? You would be correct. But I updated the recipe to balance out the booze while still keeping it true to its roots. 

The Bitter Element

While no one can have a true Vesper cocktail today, as Kina Lillet was discontinued in the mid-1980s, there are 2 bottles that you can use as a substitute to get a similarly bitter-laced dry martini. 

First up is Lillet Blanc, which is technically Kina Lillet with the quinine removed. It has some of the fruity, herbal taste from the fortified wine, but, with no quinine, it is significantly less bitter. To counteract this discrepancy in flavor, a few dashes of Angostura bitters are recommended. 

Another bottle, and my preferred choice for this drink, is Cocchi Americano. Cocchi Americano has been in production since the late 19th century in Italy, but came into popularity in the US during the cocktail renaissance of the mid-2000s. While it’s hard to know for sure, many cocktail historians agree that the flavor is very similar to the now-extinct Kina Lillet, making it a perfect choice for the Vesper.

Two Glasses of Vesper Cocktail on a Silver Tray

Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

Choosing Gin and Vodka for the Vesper

The other two bottles here are pretty no-nonsense. Use your favorite London Dry gin here—Gordon’s is fine if you’re following Bond’s recipe, but Beefeater or Ford’s gin will keep the heavy juniper flavor profile intact while not adding too many other botanicals into the mix, which could throw off the whole drink. 

Same for the vodka; use your favorite (non-flavored please!) bottle. I like Tito’s here, but any medium to higher price point bottle works, too.

Stir, Don’t Shake

I recommend you steer away from Bond’s advice about shaking martinis. Shaking waters down the drink and dulls the flavor in a Vesper. 

Stirring will give you enough water from the melting ice to dilute the drink without watering it down. Once your drink hits the cocktail glass (“V” style or coupe), top it off with a strip of lemon peel to add a complementary citrus aroma that rounds out the whole drinking experience. 

Vesper Cocktail with a Lemon Peel Surrounded by Vesper Cocktail Ingredients (Vodka, Americano, and Gin)

Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

Cocktails for Gin Lovers

Vesper Cocktail

Prep Time 3 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 3 mins
Serving 1 serving
Yield 1 cocktail

If you use Lillet Blanc, I recommend adding a few dashes of Angostura bitters.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce London Dry gin

  • 1 ounce vodka

  • 3/4 ounce Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc

  • Lemon peel, for garnish

Special Equipment

Method

  1. Stir together the ingredients:

    Pour the gin, vodka, and Cocchi Americano into a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice. Stir for 20 seconds to chill and dilute.

  2. Strain and garnish:

    Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon peel.

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    Vesper Cocktail Poured into a Martini Glass from a Mixing Glass and to the Left, Bottles of Vodka, Gin, and Americano

    Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

    Vesper Cocktail on the Counter and in the Background, on the Left, a Marble Tray with Americano and Gin Bottles and on the Right, Another Glass on a Silver Tray

    Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
131 Calories
0g Fat
1g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 131
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 8mg 39%
Calcium 8mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 10mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.