Vesper Martini

Beloved by James Bond and people around the world, the Vesper Martini is a classic cocktail you’ve got to try. This version of the classic cocktail is made with gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc and has a lighter, slightly sweet flavor with citrusy undertones.

A clear cocktail in a stemmed glass garnished with lemon twist, next to a halved lemon, a jigger, and a bottle labeled "Lillet Blanc.

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About this Vesper cocktail recipe

James Bond is known for many things: tuxedos, fancy cars and martinis, to name a few. What a dapper guy!

Martinis make the best Bond movie marathon companion. They’re so sophisticated, just like the character.

But Bond didn’t like just any old martini. A dirty martini, while delicious (and my favorite), isn’t the kind Agent 007 would order. And neither is the traditional martini, which is made with gin.

The martini that Bond liked the most is called the Vesper, which is made with gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc. It’s served up in a martini glass and finished with a classy lemon twist.

007 always ordered them shaken, not stirred, but the proper way is to stir the ingredients together in a mixing glass. Bond was right about one thing though: Vespers are a delicious twist on the martini. If you’ve never tried one, you’ve got to give them a go. Here’s everything you need to know.

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Two stemmed glasses filled with a clear liquid and garnished with lemon twists, placed on a rectangular tray. A small metal jigger is seen beside the tray.

Why you’ll love this recipe

If you love martinis, you’ll love making the classic Vesper recipe at home. They are different from the classic, but still so classy!

  • They’re a great movie cocktail that every martini lover needs to try.
  • You only need three ingredients to make the Vesper martini at home.
  • Once you know the classic recipe, you can tweak it to make it just how you like them. There are so many variations to try!

What is a martini?

The martini is a classic cocktail made with gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters. In its most classic form, this mixed drink is served straight up and with a lemon twist in a chilled, stemmed martini glass.

But that’s just the start. Martinis have dozens of variations. You can use vodka instead of gin and more or less dry vermouth. You can serve them cold or at room temperature. And of course, you can add a splash of olive brine and garnish it with olives.

The Vesper is one of these variations, featuring a combination of vodka, gin and Lillet Blanc with a lemon twist garnish.

Though classic martinis are savory cocktails, we can’t ignore the existence of the dessert martini. From the espresso martini to the peppermint martini to the lemon drop martini, there are tons of martinis that have a sweet flavor profile. Though they are served in martini glasses, they are not really martinis in the classic sense.

Two cocktail glasses with a light-colored drink and lemon peel garnish, set against a white background.

History of the Vesper

The Vesper Martini is one of the many types of martini cocktails. It was created by author Ian Fleming for his James Bond character, first appearing in his 1953 novel Casino Royale and named after the double agent Vesper Lynd, one of the iconic Bond girls/love interests.

In the book, Bond asks a bartender for a dry martini in a “deep champagne goblet” but then changes his order. He gives the bartender his recipe:

“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? … This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name.”

Bond loves it and, later in the novel, Bond asks his love interest Vesper Lynd if he can name his drink for her.

These days, Kina Lillet is no longer available. It contained quinine, a bitter ingredient also used in tonic water, but Lillet stopped using it in the 1980s and replaced the product with Lillet Blanc. It’s slightly sweeter and less bitter than a dry vermouth.

Two stemmed glasses filled with a clear liquid and garnished with lemon twists, placed on a rectangular tray. A small metal jigger is seen beside the tray.

Tools & glassware

Making a martini is simple. You are not going to need a cocktail shaker here. Contrary to James Bond’s usual order (”shaken, not stirred”), the best martinis are stirred.

You will want to use a mixing glass and a bar spoon. (However, you can use the shaker as a mixing glass if that’s what you have.) You’ll also want a jigger and a Hawthorne strainer.

To serve the drink, you’ll need a certain type of glass: a martini glass, of course! There are lots of kinds of martini glasses. Traditional martini glasses are V-shaped vessels with a stem. However, stemless martini glasses are a bit sturdier and coupe glasses have wider cup-shapes.

 
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Ingredients

The martini is a fairly simple cocktail. It’s made with three ingredients:

  • Gin: A gin that has lots of floral and herbal flavors is ideal. London Dry gins are a solid choice (especially given that this is a British cocktail). On my bar right now, I have Hendrick’s and Hayman’s.
  • Vodka: Vodka has more of a clean flavor and helps to mellow out the strong gin. Use a high-quality bottle.
  • Lillet Blanc: Other martini recipes usually call for dry vermouth, but the Vesper is different. This French bitter liqueur, known as an apéritif, is clear in color and has a slightly herbal flavor. Cocchi Americano or dry vermouth are good substitutes, but Lillet is the classic choice for a Vesper.
decorative icon of a coupe glass.

How to store Lillet Blanc

Any opened bottle of fortified wines, like vermouth and Lillet Blanc, should be stored in the fridge. The bottle will taste best if enjoyed within a month, but will still taste okay for about two months total. After that, it’s time to toss it and open a new bottle.

A close-up shot of a martini glass containing a clear liquid garnished with a lemon twist, seen from above on a white surface.

Garnishes

A piece of lemon zest is the classic garnish for a gin martini and the Vesper. It adds a little spritz of zesty citrus essential oils as you squeeze it over the drink, providing another layer of flavor and fragrance as you sip.

However, this is your cocktail, so you can substitute olives or a cocktail onion.

Shaken vs. stirred

You’ve probably heard that some martinis are shaken and some are stirred, but what does that mean exactly?

With the shaken martini, they are mixed in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass. Yes, James Bond famously orders his martinis this way in the movies, but it’s technically wrong… Shaking has too much friction, over-mixing the ingredients and diluting them with melted ice much faster than a gentle stir.

The stirred martini is the proper way to prepare a martini. The ingredients are stirred in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass filled with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass.

Here’s the right way:

  1. Get out a mixing glass (or use any glass or shaker) and add the ingredients, then a few ice cubes. Stir everything together using a bar spoon, gently, until the mixture is chilled, but the ice isn’t too melted.
  2. Then, strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish (a lemon twist in the Vesper’s case) and enjoy.

Instructions

Ready to make your own Vesper cocktail? Here’s how to do it:

A person is pouring a clear liquid from a metal jigger into a clear glass pitcher against a white background.
A hand pours a liquid from a small container into a clear glass measuring cup.

In a mixing glass, combine the vodka and gin.

Then add the Lillet Blanc and a handful of ice cubes.

A hand pours liquid from a measuring cup into a glass container filled halfway with a clear liquid.
A hand using a metallic stirrer to mix a clear beverage with ice in a glass pitcher.

Gently stir the ingredients together using a bar spoon until the mixture is chilled.

A clear liquid is being poured from a strainer into a tall, empty glass with a wide rim.
A hand placing a lemon twist garnish into a cocktail glass filled with a clear liquid, with a second similar glass and a cocktail shaker in the background.

Strain into a martini glass or coupe glass. Finish it off with a thin slice of lemon zest.

A cocktail glass with a clear drink garnished with a lemon twist. Another glass and a jigger are in the background.

Martini variations

As with all classic cocktails, there are a few variations that turn into totally different drinks. Here are some of the top types of martinis:

Vodka martini: If you’re not a gin fan, you can opt for a vodka martini.

Gibson: Garnish the martini with a cocktail onion and it becomes a Gibson. Also, it’s often made with Plymouth gin.

Martinez: This is the drink that inspired the martini. Make one with 2 ounces gin + ¾ ounce sweet vermouth + ¼ ounce maraschino liqueur + a dash of Angostura bitters + a lemon twist for garnish.

Marguerite: Equal parts gin and dry vermouth and a dash of orange bitters, the Marguerite is served with a lemon twist for garnish.

Rob Roy: More of a cousin to the Manhattan than the martini, this one is worth a mention for whiskey drinkers who’d like to foray into martinis — or martini drinkers who’d like to get into whiskey. Make it with 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 ½ ounces Scotch whiskey and a dash of Angostura bitters, served straight up or mixed in a rocks glass, with a garnish of a cocktail cherry or a lemon twist.

Mexican Martini: This version of the martini is made with tequila and lime juice. It’s almost like a cross between a martini and a margarita!

A martini glass with a lemon twist garnish, a cocktail jigger, a lemon wedge, and a bottle of liquor are placed on a white surface.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making a Vesper martini:

  • Stir, don’t shake. This will keep the drink from getting too diluted with ice, while still chilling the ingredients enough.
  • Try using Cocchi Americano instead of Lillet Blanc to try a delicious twist on the Vesper.
  • If you want to make Vesper martinis for a crowd, you can stir up a big batch and serve them from a large pitcher. You can also stash it in the fridge for yourself so you can have Vespers ready to drink anytime.

Food pairings

Martinis are a great happy hour drink to enjoy before a meal, especially because they are savory cocktails.

Enjoy them with appetizers like a hot spinach & artichoke dip or a bowl of punchy blue cheese olives.

The Vesper is also a great drink to enjoy alongside a fancy dinner, like a surf and turf steak dinner with bacon-wrapped asparagus and some cheesy twice-baked potatoes.

A cocktail glass with a lemon twist garnish, a bottle of Lillet Blanc, a jigger, a slice of lemon, and a serving tray are on a white surface.

When to serve Vespers

A Vesper is a must for any James Bond movie night! (Don’t forget the butteriest popcorn.)

They’d also be fun for a British-themed party, along with a London Mule and a Pimm’s Cup on the menu. You can also serve them for:

  • happy hour
  • fancy dinner parties
  • date night
  • movie marathons

FAQ

What is a Vesper Martini made of?

Classic martinis are usually made with gin and dry vermouth, but sometimes vodka is substituted. The Vesper Martini contains a combination of both gin and vodka for the main spirit, and the sweeter fortified wine Lillet Blanc replaces the dry vermouth.

What is the difference between a gin martini and a Vesper Martini?

The Vesper Martini blends three spirits: gin, vodka and the French aperitif wine Lillet Blanc. Traditional martinis typically combine gin with dry vermouth, though some people prefer vodka over gin.

Is Kina Lillet the same as Lillet Blanc?

Lillet Blanc is a good substitute for Kina Lillet, which is no longer available. In the 1980s, the brand retired Kina Lillet, whose recipe contained the bitter ingredient quinine. The newer Lillet Blanc doesn’t contain quinine and has a slightly sweeter flavor that’s more similar to a dry vermouth.

More savory martini recipes

— Did you make this recipe? —

Please leave a ★★★★★ review or comment below.

A cocktail glass with a lemon twist garnish, a bottle of Lillet Blanc, a jigger, a slice of lemon, and a serving tray are on a white surface.

Vesper Cocktail

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
The classic Vesper cocktail is a sophisticated blend of gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc, made famous by James Bond in 'Casino Royale.
5 from 1 vote
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ingredients

  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce gin
  • ¾ ounces Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano
  • lemon twist for garnish

instructions

  • In a mixing glass, combine the vodka, gin and Lillet Blanc. Add ice cubes.
  • Gently stir the ingredients together using a bar spoon until the mixture is chilled.
  • Strain into a martini glass or coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon peel or lemon twist.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 drink

amount per serving:

Serving: 4.75ounces Calories: 296kcal Carbohydrates: 2g Sodium: 1mg Potassium: 1mg Sugar: 2g Iron: 0.02mg
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