The Vesper Martini Didn't Originate In A Bar, So Where Did It Come From?

Some of the world's greatest cocktails have been invented in bars. The Bellini comes to us courtesy of Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy. The Manhattan, the Rusty Nail, and Long Island Iced Tea were all invented in clubs or hotel bars in New York City. The Mai Tai is an invention of Trader Vic's in Oakland, California. All of these drinks are examples of legendary cocktails whose legacy and reputation have stretched far beyond the haunts in which they were first mixed. So, one would think that the Vesper Martini would be among the ranks of one of the great barroom inventions. One would, however, be mistaken.

The Vesper Martini is a strong, highly aromatic cocktail. It consists of three measures of Gordon's London dry gin, one measure of vodka, and half a measure of Kina Lillet, which is a floral French aperitif wine. This concoction gets shaken over ice and served with a very thin slice of lemon peel in a classic martini glass. If this recipe is starting to sound familiar, it's likely because you've read or heard it spoken before.

As a matter of fact, the Vesper Martini was invented by one of the most famous and fictitious drinkers of all time. Of course, the Vesper itself is very much real, as was the author who penned the recipe. That author was Ian Fleming. And the character who ordered the first Vesper? Do we have to tell you? It's Bond. James Bond. 

Come, come, Mr. Fleming

The Vesper Martini first appeared in Ian Fleming's 1953 classic, "Casino Royale," the first of the James Bond novels. The plot centers around a high-stakes — and exceedingly dangerous — poker game at the aptly named Casino Royale. At one point, Bond orders the aforementioned martini, inventing the recipe on the spot. He later decides to call it a Vesper, after his love interest, Vesper Lynd. This scene is played out brilliantly in the 2006 film adaptation, starring Daniel Craig as Bond. The cocktail's fame is a direct result of the success of the Bond series.

Ian Fleming made no secret of his love of booze. Indeed, he was known to serve rum-based cocktails, supposedly called "Vespers," at his Jamaican getaway, Goldeneye. A far more likely origin for the Bond cocktail's name stems from Fleming's own tenure for British Naval Intelligence during World War II. This theory has a more Bond-like flare.

As an intelligence officer, Fleming met and worked with a highly skilled British agent whose code name was Vésperale. She was one of the most successful agents in British history. It is extremely likely that Fleming named the character of Vesper Lynd, and therefore the cocktail, after this great spy.

So, while the origins of the Vesper Martini are decidedly literary, the drink is nevertheless real. And any good bartender should be able to mix you one, provided you're dressed for the part. Anything less than a tux or dress simply won't do.