Cocktails and Crime Fiction: The Big Sleep Paired With a Gimlet

Original half-sheet poster (Photo: Author’s Collection)

The Big Sleep paired with a Gimlet

The Big Sleep (1946), based on Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel of the same name, often shows up on lists of the best noir films. You won’t find it on mine—which is not to say I don’t love it. It’s a great detective movie and would be in my roundup of favorite screwball comedies. It just doesn’t have a genuine noir heart, despite its moody atmospherics and barrage of hard-boiled badinage. That said, this book would be incomplete without the legendary chemistry of stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, as well as the incomparable prose stylist who created private eye Philip Marlowe.

I could have chosen a different drink to represent The Big Sleep, most appropriately brandy, which Marlowe’s client, General Sternwood, serves him in the very first scene, remarking, “I used to like mine with Champagne. The Champagne as cold as Valley Forge and about a third of a glass of brandy beneath it.” But I’m saving that concoction for another noir character who’ll make an entrance later in these pages. Instead, let’s have Gimlets, which have become synonymous with Chandler, thanks to the drink’s prevalence in thewriter’s 1954 masterpiece The Long Goodbye, where it’s mentioned twenty-one times after Marlowe is introduced to it by his buddy Terry Lennox.

We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor’s and drank Gimlets.

“They don’t know how to make them here,” he said. “What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.”

Chandler reportedly was introduced to the cocktail aboard the RMS Mauritania, sailing back to North America from England. It became a staple of his diet, with cases of Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice regularly delivered to his home. I find his preferred recipe undrinkable, so I offer the following, more palatable version.


COUPE GLASS, chilled | SHAKER, strained

2 ounces London Dry gin

¾ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice (never lemon)

¼ ounce (or less) Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice

Garnish – lime wheel

NOTES: A bit of Rose’s takes the edge off the drink’s tartness. Proportions can be adjusted to your taste. This drink also works on the rocks, if you prefer.

Excerpted from Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller. Copyright © 2023. Available from Running Press, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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