The Vesper: A Call Drink Good Enough for the Smith’s Jeff Leanheart (and James Bond)


Sick of your usual call drink? Try something new. In this series, we’re asking the city’s bartenders to name their current drinks of choice. Check out our Good Call archives for another round.

Today’s call comes by way of Jeff Leanheart of The Smith (55 Third Avenue; 212-420-9800)

What’s your call drink?
The vesper.

What is it about this drink that you like so much?
It’s a great drink to have after a long shift at work, especially when served very chilled, with a long peel of lemon. It’s really refreshing and packs a punch.

Has it always been your favorite? How long did it take you to find it? What was that process like?
Since I began drinking cocktails, gin has been one of my favorite spirits. I love the complexity of flavors that can be found in there. I’ve also always been a James Bond fan, so that combined with my love of gin and this drink pretty much fell into my lap. The vesper was named after Bond’s first love in Casino Royale.

Any chance something might replace it down the line?
I tend to drink a wide array of drinks but always end up defaulting to the vesper. But what I order often depends on the venue I’m at. Many times, I like to leave my drink order in the bartender’s hands. I will just throw out a base spirit and flavor profile and trust them to make me something delicious. Maybe one of these days this strategy will find me a new call drink.

Where’s a few places around town that make your favorite drink?
A vesper is a classic cocktail, so pretty much any venue can make this. With the proper measurements in the cocktail, you need a venue that uses a fairly large martini glass to fill appropriately. I like Employees Only and Pravda, to name a couple.

What’s the recipe for those who want to make it at home?

3 parts London dry gin
1 part vodka
1/2 part Lillet blanc
Lemon peel to garnish

Combine gin, vodka, and Lillet in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

What’s your second-favorite drink?
The Last Word. The classic recipe originates from the Detroit Athletic Club back in the 1920s. It is made with equal parts gin, lime juice, green chartreuse and maraschino liqueur.

What I really like about this drink is that you can play with the flavor profiles of the gin and the chartreuse. I sometimes substitute the gin with a rhum agricole [rum made from cane juice rather than the more commonly used molasses]. Rhum Clement has recently launched Canne Blue, which is made from terroir-specific blue sugarcane, which provides earthy funk to the cocktail. And I tend to sometimes play with many different styles of absinthes in place of the chartreuse — the herbs, barks, and botanicals within the spirit lead to multifaceted dimensions to the drink.

3/4 oz. Two James gin (from Detroit, where the drink originated)
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. green chartreuse
3/4 oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Pour ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.