Behind the Bar with 007: The Making of the James Bond Drink

The James Bond ‘Vesper’ Drink

In the realm of popular culture, there are few figures as instantly recognizable as James Bond. And within the Bond mythology, there’s no detail as iconic as his signature drink — a martini, to be served shaken, not stirred.

This idiosyncratic beverage has been a constant in the series, from the novels‘ inception in the 1950s to the blockbuster films that continue to thrill audiences around the world.

The James Bond drink, also known as the “Vesper Martini,” holds a distinguished place in cocktail lore. Not only is it an essential part of Bond’s suave and sophisticated image, but it has also influenced the broader public’s perception of martinis and cocktails in general.


In this article, we’ll delve into the origins, composition, and controversy of Bond’s preferred libation, the martini. From understanding why Bond prefers his martini shaken and not stirred, to providing a step-by-step guide to making your own James Bond drink, read on for a comprehensive guide to the world’s most famous spy’s drink of choice.

The Origin of the James Bond Drink

The James Bond drink, with its precise preparation and presentation, is not a spontaneous creation but rather a product of Ian Fleming‘s vivid imagination and personal preference.

An important piece of the Bond drink’s history lies in the heart of London at Dukes Bar, known for its martinis and as a favorite haunt of Fleming’s. It is said that the bar’s unique way of making martinis — chilling the gin in the freezer and then pouring it over a dash of vermouth, served with a twist of lemon — greatly influenced Fleming.

James Bond Drink

It first appeared in the debut James Bond novel, Casino Royale, published in 1953. Here, Bond orders a drink of his own invention, which he names after Vesper Lynd, the novel’s femme fatale.

The ingredients of this drink – Gin, Vodka, and Kina Lillet – might seem unconventional for a traditional martini, but this unique mix underscores the character’s audacity and sophistication.

The drink soon transitioned from the pages of Fleming’s novels to the big screen, appearing in numerous Bond films and becoming an iconic symbol of the franchise.

The design of the drink “shaken, not stirred” was first requested by Bond in the Dr. No novel, and has since become as part of James Bond as his codename 007, and with it one of the most well-known catchphrases in cinema history.

The Bond Martini: Composition and Recipe

The Bond martini, or the “Vesper,” as it’s named in Casino Royale, boasts an unconventional yet intriguing recipe that sets it apart from traditional martinis. The ingredients are as follows:

  • 3 measures of Gordon’s Gin
  • 1 measure of Vodka (preferably grain vodka for authenticity)
  • 1/2 measure of Kina Lillet (Lillet Blanc is a modern substitute as Kina Lillet is no longer produced)
  • Lemon peel for garnish

Following is the step-by-step recipe to create the classic Vesper Martini:

  1. Chill the Glass: Start by chilling a martini glass. This can be done by filling it with ice water and setting it aside while you prepare the drink.
  2. Measure the Ingredients: Pour the Gordon’s gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet (or Lillet Blanc) into a cocktail shaker.
  3. Shake it Up: Now comes the signature step. Instead of stirring the cocktail as is traditionally done with martinis, Bond preferred his drink shaken. Fill the shaker with ice and shake the ingredients together vigorously.
  4. Strain and Serve: Empty the ice water from your now chilled martini glass. Strain the liquid from the shaker into the glass, ensuring that no ice shards make their way into the final drink.
  5. Garnish: Finally, garnish your drink with a large slice of lemon peel, just like Bond would have it.

While the Vesper remains the quintessential James Bond drink, different variations have appeared in subsequent novels and films, reflecting the change in times and tastes. These include the vodka martini, which became more popular in later films. Yet, they all bear the hallmark of Bond’s preference for his cocktail to be “shaken, not stirred.”

The ingredients for a James Bond Vesper martini Drink

Shaken, Not Stirred: Bond’s Preference

The phrase “shaken, not stirred” has become as synonymous with James Bond as his Walther PPK or Aston Martin DB5. But why does Bond insist on his drink being prepared in this way? The answer lies in both the taste and the character’s iconic persona.

Bond first enjoys a martini, shaken not stirred in Diamonds Are Forever novel after Tiffany Case orders him one. Then in Dr. No he requests it to be made that way himself. The term was later immortalized on screen by Sean Connery in the 1964 film, Goldfinger.

The phrase signifies not just a preference in mixology, but also serves as a testament to Bond’s rebellious nature, a testament to his preference for challenging conventions.

By shaking his martini, James Bond would have effectively “bruised” the gin, a term used to describe the action of ice diluting the alcohol, creating a milder, cloudier drink compared to a stirred martini. It’s a method that’s typically frowned upon by cocktail purists, as it can diminish the gin’s natural flavors.

However, Bond’s preference for his drink to be shaken not only reflects his disregard for traditional norms, but it also creates a cocktail that is quicker to chill, ensuring he can enjoy his beverage promptly – a suitable trait for a man often on the move.

Despite the controversy it has generated in mixology circles, the phrase “shaken, not stirred” remains a defining characteristic of Bond’s image.

The Martini Controversy: Stirred vs Shaken

The shaken versus stirred debate is a long-standing point of contention among cocktail enthusiasts. Traditionalists argue that a martini should be stirred and not shaken, differing significantly from Bond’s iconic catchphrase.

In the world of mixology, the usual method of preparing a martini calls for stirring the ingredients with ice, then straining the mixture into a glass. This technique is recommended for clear, spirit-forward drinks like martinis as it minimizes the dilution and maintains the clarity and nuanced flavors of the spirits. Stirring gently cools the drink without introducing too much water, preserving the smooth, rich taste of the gin or vodka.

On the other hand, shaking a cocktail, as James Bond prefers, results in a colder drink in a shorter amount of time. It also introduces more dilution and tiny air bubbles into the mixture, which can add a slightly different texture and make the drink appear cloudier.

Despite the traditional view, the preference between shaking and stirring is largely subjective. Some might argue that shaking a drink can “bruise” or dilute the alcohol too much, while others enjoy the frothy texture and well-blended flavors that a good shake can provide.

Pierce Brosnan drinking a Vesper Martini

The choice ultimately lies in the individual’s personal preference – a concept that aligns well with Bond’s distinctive and individualistic character. In the end, James Bond’s penchant for a shaken martini serves to differentiate his character – a sophisticated and unconventional man with an eye for detail and a taste for the finer things in life.

How to Enjoy a James Bond Drink

Enjoying a James Bond Vesper Drink isn’t just about tasting a cocktail, it’s about immersing oneself in a moment of cinematic history and relishing an icon of popular culture. The way one enjoys a Vesper Martini can greatly enhance the overall experience.

  1. Set the Mood: To fully appreciate a Vesper Martini, you might consider setting the mood. This could involve anything from putting on a soundtrack from the Bond films to hosting a James Bond theme party. The sophisticated, high-stakes world of James Bond is part of the appeal of the drink, so immersing yourself in that world can enhance your experience.
  2. Use Quality Ingredients: Bond is a man of refined tastes, and the quality of your ingredients can significantly affect the taste of your martini. For an authentic Bond martini, use a Gordon’s Gin and high quality vodka, and don’t skimp on the Lillet Blanc.
  3. Appreciate the Process: The James Bond drink isn’t just about the final product, it’s also about the journey. Take the time to appreciate the process of making the martini, from measuring out the ingredients to shaking (not stirring) them together.
  4. Experiment: Bond’s character evolves with each film, and there’s no reason why your experience with his signature drink shouldn’t do the same. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different measurements. You might discover your own preference, just as Bond did.

Martini, Shaken Not Stirred – The James Bond Drink of Choice

The James Bond drink, with its distinctive composition and the unforgettable phrase “shaken, not stirred,” is much more than a cocktail. It’s a symbol of elegance, sophistication, and a rejection of the ordinary.

In the realm of mixology, the James Bond Vesper Martini has sparked debates, influenced trends, and although the “shaken, not stirred” method is controversial, it represents the essence of Bond—unconventional, suave, and always intriguing.

From Dukes Bar in London to the silver screen and beyond, the legacy of the famous Vesper Martini endures, continuing to captivate cocktail enthusiasts and Bond fans alike. Here’s to the iconic James Bond drink – may it continue to stir our imaginations and shake up our evenings. Cheers!