Home Stretch: The Vesper Martini


By Dave Pezza

The name is Pezza...Dave Pezza, and I’m here to bring you the latest installment of Writer’s Bone’s Home Stretch. Here you’ll find the smoothest cocktails paired with the classiest tunes to help you swoon the mid-week machinations of work and life. This week, we’ve donned our finest Italian suit, acquired the freshest ingredients, and crafted the most iconic music associated with one of the classiest, sexiest franchises in fiction: Ian Fleming’s James Bond.

Friday’s #NovelClass will feature Fleming’s groundbreaking, seminal Bond novel, Casino Royale. In anticipation for that pod, I present to you the most James Bond cocktail of all time and a specially curated playlist of some of the Bond film franchise’s most famous tracks. Unclasp those cufflinks, let down that fancy up-do, it’s time to drink some classy booze!

Yes, we’re featuring a martini, Bond’s ever-famous, go-to cocktail while wooing some devilishly attractive female. Even the delivery is famous, “Vodka martini. Shaken. Not stirred.” But James Bond, more accurately in Ian Fleming’s novel, did not create the vodka martini. He is responsible for the Vesper Martini, this week’s featured beverage. In the aforementioned Casino Royale, Bond sits at a fancy hotel bar with American CIA agent and soon-to-be best friend Felix Leiter. Bond first orders a Haig-and-Haig on the rocks, a popular Scotch whiskey of the time. But before the barman has time to retrieve the order, Bond looks him square in the face and says, “martini, dry...One. In a deep champagne goblet.” And before the barman can retrieve that order, Bond stops him again. He says, “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?” And just like that the Vesper Martini was born!

What you’ll need:

  • 3 oz. Gordon’s London dry gin
  • 1 oz. vodka (take your pick)
  • ½ oz. Kina Lillet
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Ice
  • Full lemon

To pair with Bond’s take on the gin martini, I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite licks from the long and sometimes illustrious Bond film franchise. I hope you enjoy the picks and this potent beverage.

3 oz. Gordon’s London dry gin/“The James Bond...James Bond” by David Arnold

Before you read any further, start up the playlist. The opening track is David Arnold’s take on the original “The James Bond Theme Song” created in 1962 for the first James Bond film “Dr. No,” starring the one and only Sean Connery. I’ve included the original at the playlist’s end, but I fell in love with Arnold’s version the minute I heard it at the end of 2006 Bond film “Casino Royale,” the first film in the series to star the current Bond actor Daniel Craig. That movie rebooted the series and sought to rescue the franchise from over-the-top action, absurd gadgets, and corny humor of the later Pierce Brosnan films. The theme song and the reboot reestablished the franchise and the character of James Bond as a gritty British spy brimming with bravado, wit, and just a pinch of panache. To capture this rebirth, Arnold (also responsible for the scores for “Independence Day” and the BBC series “Sherlock”) redid the famous theme song, giving it a crisp grandeur that builds to a powerful and refined finish.

Gordon’s London dry gin is a classic English gin originally created in 1769. As a company, Gordon’s lasted through the centuries and eventually merged with Tanqueray in 1898. So we are talking the epitome of English gin here. Most liquor stores carry some iteration of Gordon’s. I’d suggest picking up a bottle if only to say you’ve tried Gordon’s. Add some ice to the cocktail shaker and add three ounces of Gordon’s.

1 oz. Vodka/“Goldfinger” by Sirely Bassey

Bond doesn’t specify vodka and neither will I. The vodka and the Kina Lillet add some nuance to what would otherwise be a pretty standard gin martini. In that vein, I’d suggest a more muted vodka, something between expensive/smooth and cheap/overly flavorful. Add only one ounce of vodka to your concoction.

“Goldfinger,” the theme song from arguably the best Bond film, captures some of the Bond theme but also incorporates a heavy 1960s influence of horns, bluesy female vocals, and big band sound. You’ll be belting out “GOLLLLLLLDDDDDD-FINGA!” for days, I assure you.

½ oz. Kina Lillet/“Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith

I’m not a big Sam Smith fan, but this song that he wrote for the 2015 Bond film “Spectre” is a monster. The first Bond theme song to place Number 1 on the U.K. charts, “Writing’s on the Wall” managed to capture a softer, often overlooked tone in the Bond franchise. Borrowing much in feel from Adele’s 2012 Bond theme for “Skyfall,” Sam Smith juxtaposes strong and delicate vocals over an orchestral accompaniment that expertly magnifies the bold and subdued dichotomy of his voice.

We’ve used Kina Lillet before in this series, (Corpse Reviver #2). If you still have some from that recipe in the fridge, break it out. If not, it’s definitely time for a new bottle. Kina Lillet has a distinct sweet but not overpowering flavor that will help smooth the edges of some of the gin flavors. Add only half an ounce of Kina Lillet to the shaker.

Lemon peel/“Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney, Wings

Close the lid on the shaker, and shake it up. Once the contents are good and cold, take the lemon and use a vegetable peeler to peel off a thin, long piece of the lemon rind, spinning the lemon as you carve out a spiral from top to bottom. Place that peel into a cocktail glass and pour out the shaker.

I couldn’t pass up talking about Paul McCartney’s incomparable Bond theme song. The most famous of the Bond themes, the former Beatle managed to throw a whole lot of sounds into this tune. You’ve got the signature piano, strings, and horns that scream James Bond, and a whole manner of wind instruments. I’m pretty sure there is a xylophone in there as well. A fun, quietly menacing arrangement that matched quite perfectly with the awkward seriousness that would become Roger Moore’s Bond.


Tune into #NovelClass on Friday for Dave Pezza and Sean Tuohy’s discussion of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.

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