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Shake it, Don't Stir: History of 'Vesper Martini', the Cocktail That James Bond Approves

A still from the movie 'Casino Royale'. (Image: Youtube)

A still from the movie 'Casino Royale'. (Image: Youtube)

Ever since the mention Vesper Martini in Casino Royale, people have been nagging bartenders the world over for the drink. Where did Fleming get that drink from!

News18 Tippling Point"In a deep champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it well until it’s ice cold, then add a slice of lemon peel.”

Shaken not stirred.

Most of you out there have already guessed who the speaker is. Bond, James Bond.

Bond was explaining to a Casino bartender in Ian Fleming's first novel, Casino Royale, how to make his favourite drink, Vesper Martini.

This is nothing new for a Bond fan.

Fleming knew how to create a cult by accessorising his character down to the teeth. Bond's cigar, car, clothes, food, drink, everything made sensation among his followers ever since the tinsel world had begun to explore Fleming stories for the new medium.

Fussy to the core, Bond would insist on sprinkling pepper to his vodka to remove impurities, adding only branch water to his bourbon and finally this phenomenal take on his Martini: shaken, not stirred. His audience cheered him for the antics.

Ever since the mention Vesper Martini in Casino Royale, people have been nagging bartenders the world over for the drink. Where did Fleming get that drink from!

Some point to the Duke's hotel in London where the novelist used to frequent. But it can't be. Dukes became a cocktail point long after the demise of Ian Fleming. So it could only be the novelist's invention. But where did he get that name from? Vesper?

It was at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica that Ian Fleming wrote the first draft of Casino Royale. He used to throw elaborate parties for his friends at the retreat on the island. One of the drinks he served his friends was a rum-based cocktail named 'Vespers.' But again, the island doesn't offer such a drink elsewhere, so it could most probably be Fleming's own invention.

The question remains: Where does he get the name 'Vesper' from?

While Fleming was working with the British Naval Intelligence during the Second World War, he met Christine Granville, one of the greatest secret agents of the time. The latter had many code names while working behind the enemy lines and one of them - Vesperale - caught the fancy of our novelist.

Some believe that Fleming immortalised that name in the novel - Vesper - as he had a brief affair with the woman. One of the characters Bond meets in Casino Royale is the charming agent, Vesper Lynd.

Bond asks if she'd mind if he names his favourite drink after her. She smiles.

So what is Vesper martini? Is it another name for the more popular dry Martini?

Look at the ingredients: While dry Martini takes either gin or Vodka, we need both vodka and gin in Vespers. Plus the aperitif Kina Lillet.

Now the ritual: shake it, which makes the drink lighter than the dry Martini. That is why some Martini fans look down on Vesper followers. A lighter Martini is blasphemy for the purists.

But don't assume that you can walk into a bar today and place an order for the Bond drink. It has become a thing of the past. Kina Lillet vermouth, one of the most important ingredients in Vesper Martini, is not produced anymore.

At the end of the story, Casino Royale, Vesper Lynde, just like many agents from other Bond stories, turns to be a double agent.

Bond deals with her as the story comes to an end. He says: "The bitch is dead now."

So is the original Vesper Martini.

Disclaimer:(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
first published:June 07, 2020, 13:19 IST