The Vesper or Vesper Martini is a cocktail that was originally made of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet.
The drink was invented and named by fictional secret agent James Bond in the 1953 novel Casino Royale.
"A dry martini," [Bond] 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."
—Ian Fleming, Casino Royale, Chapter 7, "Rouge et Noir'
Fleming continues with Bond telling the barman, after taking a long sip, "Excellent ... but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better," and then adds in an aside, "Mais n'enculons pas des mouches" (English: But let's not bugger flies—a vulgar French expression meaning "let's not split hairs").
Bond in the next chapter, "Pink Lights and Champagne", names it the Vesper. At the time of his first introduction to the beautiful Vesper Lynd, he obtains her name in a perfect «interrogation indirecte», "I was born in the evening,..on a very stormy evening..," and asks to borrow it.
A Vesper differs from Bond's usual cocktail of choice, the martini, in that it uses both gin and vodka, Kina Lillet instead of the usual dry vermouth, and a lemon peel instead of an olive. Although there is a lot of discussion on the Vesper, it is only ordered once throughout Fleming's novels - although Bond drinks the Vesper ("six of them") in the film Quantum of Solace - and by later books Bond is ordering regular vodka martinis, though he also drinks regular gin martinis. It may be that Fleming decided not to have Bond order a Vesper again due to the way in which 'Casino Royale' ends.
In actuality the book version of the Vesper was created by Fleming's friend Ivar Bryce. In Bryce's copy of Casino Royale Fleming inscribed "For Ivar, who mixed the first Vesper and said the good word." In his book You Only Live Once, Bryce details that Fleming was first served a Vesper, a drink of a frozen rum concoction with fruit and herbs, at evening drinks by the butler of an elderly couple in Jamaica, the Duncans, the butler commenting, "'Vespers' are served." Vespers or evensong is the sixth of the seven canonical hours of the divine office and are observed at sunset, the 'violet hour', Bond's later chosen hour of fame for his martini Vesper.
Since both Kina Lillet and Gordon's have been reformulated since 1953, substitutes can be made that attempt to recapture the original flavour of the drink:
Cocchi Americano is considered an acceptable substitute for the now unavailable Kina Lillet. Also the French aperitif wine Lillet
For a more traditional flavour, use 50% (100-proof) Vodka to bring the alcohol content of the vodka back to 1953 levels. Grain vodka is preferred.
Tanqueray or Broker's gin provides the traditional flavour of 47% (94-proof) gin; whereas Gordon's Gin, in the UK domestic market, has been reformulated to less than 40% (80-proof). A 47% (94-proof) Export version of Gordon's Gin still exists today (The extra dilution caused by shaking is the reason to prefer it over stirring in this high-alcohol drink).
A modern cocktail glass, which is larger today than was common in 1953, is often substituted for the deep Champagne goblet (see Champagne stemware for the original look of the drink)
Esquire printed the following update of the recipe in 2006:
"Shake (if you must) with plenty of cracked ice. 3 oz Tanqueray gin, 1 oz 50% (100-proof) Stolichnaya vodka, 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc, 1/8 teaspoon (or less) quinine powder or, in desperation, 2 dashes of bitters. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and twist a large swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.