“A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“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.
“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.
Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”
Thus orders the illustrious secret agent James Bond in the first novel he appears in, Casino Royale. He goes on to name the martini after Vesper Lynd, the novel’s lead female character and Bond‘s love interest.
Here are a few tidbits of info about Kina Lillet. It (was) is an apertif wine produced in France. It is a blend of wine and macerated liqueurs, mostly liqueurs from the peels of sweet and bitter oranges. It is also flavored with quinine. (The same stuff that gives tonic water its bitter bite.) In the mid 80’s Lillet decreased the quinine content and dropped the “Kina” from the label. It is now just Lillet, and comes in rouge and blanc varieties. You will want the blanc for this martini. Check your local well-stocked liquor store. If you’re worried about what else you will use Lillet for, there are other cocktails to be made with it, (it is used in place of vermouth here) and it is also delicious served over ice with a twist of lemon. Lillet happens to be a favorite of another iconic fictional character, Hannibal Lecter. I will refrain from writing any fava bean jokes.
I had my first Vesper martini at the aptly named Vesper bar in the Cosmopolitan in Vegas. It was stylish & sophisticated (the bar AND the drink), and I now prefer it to my old favorite, the dirty vodka martini.
The Vesper -modernized and made my way
3 oz London dry gin – I use Beefeater
1 oz vodka- I use Ketel One
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
Shake over cracked ice, strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a long, thin peel of lemon.
Check back later for other cocktails with Lillet.