The Vesper [Polo] Martini

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When it comes to naming a new product, inspiration can strike from just about anywhere.  The only common denominator across products is that each name comes with its own unique story.  This is the story of the Vesper Polo.

The Vesper Polo was created because polo shirt innovation had stagnated.  The companies that had pioneered the space like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger had dropped the ball which left the polo shirt in desperate need of modernization.  When we set out designing our take on the polo, one of the key inspirations was Daniel Craig’s interpretation of James Bond.  In Casino Royale, Daniel Craig wears the polo that helped inspire our design, so when it came time to name our product, it was only natural to look to the Bond cannon for inspiration.

In Chapter 7 of Ian Fleming’s book, Casino Royale, James Bond asks a bartender for “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.”  Bond explains to his companion that “The drink’s my own invention.  I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

It doesn’t take long for inspiration to strike.  One chapter later, Bond meets a woman named Vesper Lynd.  Upon offering up such an unusual name, Ms. Lynd explains to Bond:

“It’s rather abore always having to explain, but I ‘was born in the evening, on a very stormy evening according to my parents.  Apparently they wanted to remember it.”  She smiled.  “Some people like it, others don’t.  I’m just used to it.”

Today, the word “Vesper” means evening prayer, but in its original Latin form, it simply meant “evening.”  It’s to the latter definition that Ms. Lynd refers.  Bond responds:

‘I think it’s a fine name,’ said Bond. An idea struck him. ‘Can I borrow it?  He explained about the special Martini he had invented and his search for a name for it.  ‘The Vesper,’ he said. ‘It sounds perfect and it’s very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it? ‘

Ms. Lynd gives her blessing and the Vesper Martini is born.  So how exactly does one make a Vesper Martini?  Bond gives the recipe right there in Casino Royale:

  • 3 Parts Gordon’s Gin
  • 1 Part Vodka
  • ½ Part Kina Lillet
  • Shake well over ice
  • Garnish with lemon peel

Unfortunately, Casino Royale was written in 1953 and not all of those ingredients are still manufactured today.  Gordon’s is a famous British gin, and while it’s a little tough to find in the U.S., it can be ordered online easily enough.  Vodka is readily available all over the world.  Bond doesn’t specify his vodka of choice, but Stoli and Smirnoff both have strong Bond connections.  The issue is with Kina Lillet.  It’s signature ingredient, quinine, is no longer a desired taste, so the company that manufactured Kina Lillet, removed the quinine and rebranded the product Lillet Blanc.

All hope is not lost though.  To recreate the true Vesper Martini experience, there are two options: 1) Cocchi Americano, which still contains quinine, can be substituted for Kina Lillet or 2) If you insist on using Lillet Blanc, you can add a few dashes of a cinchona-infused spirit or distillate.  The choice is yours.  But if you’re going to indulge in a Vesper Martini, it should be enjoyed at sunset as Bond intended it, while wearing a Vesper Polo.

Author: Charley

Charley is Director, Finance & Operations at Mack Weldon.