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The Vesper Martini Is The Elevated Martini You Need Right Now

The Vesper Martini (pronounced “ves-pa”) is a literary and later a cinematic classic. The martini variation is all about packing a big punch while carrying some serious flavor notes from the gin, Lillet, and lemon. It’s also one of those recipes we have that are very clearly dictated — there’s no room for interpretation.

Back in 1953, Ian Fleming laid out the recipe very specifically via James Bond in Casino Royale. Bond ordered a dry martini in a “champagne goblet” with “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.” That’s a pretty easy recipe to follow even though it’s, gasp, shaken, and not stirred (brass tacks, vodka martinis are perfectly fine shaken but gin contains oils that separate from the alcohol and that clouds the drink and dulls the gin when shaken instead of stirred).

That aside, this drink still rules. So who cares? Let’s just make one and enjoy it because, again, this is a classic.

Also Read: The Top Five Cocktail Recipes of the Last Six Months

Vesper Martini

Vesper Martini
Zach Johnston

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Gordon’s London Dry Gin
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 0.5 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • Lemon peel
  • Ice

Naturally, we’re starting with Gordon’s London Dry Gin since that’s specifically called out for this recipe. I’m using a Beluga Transatlantic Vodka because it has that adventuring, Bondian, Russian espionage vibe. It’s also a delightfully subtle Siberian vodka. Lastly, there’s the Lillet Blanc. This is pretty easy to find at any liquor store and works wonders as a more deeply-nuanced alternative to dry vermouth in any cocktail that calls for that ingredient.

Vesper Martini
Zach Johnston

What You’ll Need:

  • Champagne coupe or “goblet”
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Cocktail strainer
  • Fruit peeler
  • Paring knife
  • Jigger
Vesper Martini
Zach Johnston

Method:

  • Prechill your glass in the freezer.
  • Add the Gordon’s, vodka, and Lillet to a cocktail shaker.
  • Fill the shaker with ice (about 2/3 full), affix the lid, and shake gently for about 15 seconds or until the shaker is completely frosted over.
  • Strain the cocktail into the prechilled glass.
  • Allow the cocktail to settle to clear up (see cloudy image above). In the meantime, peel a long thumb of lemon peel. Express the oils over the cocktail. Lastly, trim the edges of the peel to create a long and thin lemon twist.
  • Garnish with the lemon twist and serve.

Bottom Line:

Vesper Martini
Zach Johnston

This opens with a bright rush of those lemon oils. Then there’s a bit of a magic trick. The first half of the sip feels and tastes like a very soft and mineral-forward vodka martini that then starts to slowly warm as the mild botanicals and barks kick in on the finish of the sip and warm you to your soul. So, it starts as a vodka martini and then ends as a subtle gin martini.

That gin-y nature builds as you drink the cocktail but it never overwhelms. The lemon plays a crucial role in both brightening and mellowing the sharper aspects of the gin. The Lillet adds a very slight sweetness that acts as a sort of bridge between the minerally vodka and the botanicals of the gin.

This really is a delightful yet very strong cocktail. This is four ounces of straight booze in a glass. Yes, it’s slightly diluted with some water from that ice, but it’s still a wallopping cocktail that could get you in trouble if you forget how much booze is in it. So just go by Bond’s own advice: Drink (only) one before dinner and drink it slowly to really savor it.

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