1½ fluid ounces of 94.6-proof London dry gin
(recommended: Tanquery London Dry Gin, “Imported” Strength¹)
½ fluid ounce of 100-proof², grain-based³ vodka
(recommended: Stolichnaya 100 Proof)
¼ fluid ounce (1½ teaspoons) of a Kina Lillet substitute
(recommended: Cocchi Americano⁴)
Combine the ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and “shake it very well until it’s ice-cold”. Then, double strain into a frozen cocktail glass (classically, “a deep champagne goblet”). Garnish with a “large thin slice of lemon peel”.
The Vesper is a doubled-up, split-base, 8∶1 Martini with a vermouth and bitters substitution. It was created by James Bond (Ian Fleming) and rather than having a base of only gin or only vodka, it uses gin thinned out and made less ginny by vodka in 3∶1 ratio.
The drink is bittered and moderately sweetened with a quinqina blanc rather than a dry vermouth (leading to a lightly sweetened quinine bitterness as opposed to a dry wormwood bitterness) and that quinqina also adds the citrusy orange notes in place of the orange bitters due to the quinqina’s maceration of orange peels (a common trait in quinqinas).
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.
—Ian Fleming, Casino Royale
James Bond is an alcoholic. This is over three drinks worth of alcohol. Also, as usual, he requests his cocktails shaken even when they contain only fortified wines and clear spirits. I have halved the portions for the recipe above, but of course Mr. Bond states:
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.
Gordon’s would have been 94.6-proof, at the time. Tanquery and Gordon’s are the same company and Tanquery is still sold at 94.6-proof, if you purchase the bottles that say “Imported”.
David Wondrich points out that vodka at the time would have been higher proof than it is now.
“Excellent … but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.” Bond likely had Stolichnaya vodka in mind, per Wondrich above.
You may read my notes on Kina Lillet, but Cocchi Americano is what I prefer in a Vesper, hands down.