When we first started writing the Summit Sips blog back in 2009, we spent a year working our way through classics and DIY ingredients before we featured the drink that inspired the site’s design. The Vesper cocktail might be described as a Dry Martini variant, though unlike most martinis it has an usual mix of both gin and vodka. Even more unusual is the ratio of the “vermouth” modifier, which isn’t vermouth at all, but the venerable Lillet (originally, Kina Lillet) now absent the bitter quinine component of the historic Lillet formula. We can use Cocchi Americano which many enthusiasts argue yields a more accurate version aligned with Ian Flemming’s original intent. But Flemming was a novelist, not a bartender, so who knows what that’s worth. In any case, the iconic Vesper has its place in cocktail history and has managed to gather a big following over the past decade or so.
Despite its popularity, not everyone who tries the Vesper falls instantly in love with it. Even if you set aside the Lillet/Cocchi debate and commit to mixing gin with vodka, the actual design of this cocktail seems dubious to anyone who enjoys the rewards of sipping a balanced drink with flavors that harmonize. For instance, what exactly is the vodka doing at quarter volume? It’s is not really enough to dilute the flavor of the gin, if that was the point, and 8:1 is a very strange place to land with respect to the modifier if you want it to do any magic. So, what can we do about it?
1.5 oz vodka
1 oz gin
.5 oz Cocchi Americano
Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a heavy twist of lemon.
Although he doesn’t take credit for inventing it, Zack Zochke reviewed this inverted ratio on his YouTube channel last year. The rationale is pretty straightforward—by essentially switching the gin and vodka, the neutral spirit dramatically smooths out the botanicals of the gin so they don’t dominate the flavor. Then, at 5:1 with the Cocchi, we have a much more common Dry Martini ratio that allows the everything to work together. Like the original, the lemon twist is absolutely essential, and you should give it a heavy squeeze to express the fragrant oils over the surface of the drink.
If you have always found yourself in the minority around folks telling you you are supposed to like this drink, give this version a try. Or, if you are not really a gin Martini drinker, this may be a gateway to changing your mind.