The Celluloid Pantry: Brandy and Champagne and The Big Sleep (1946)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

“We used to swap shots between drinks, or drinks between shots, whichever you like.”

Although the convoluted plot of The Big Sleep (1946) is notoriously difficult to follow, the dialogue – and the drinks – are straight-shooting and quick.

In this classic noir, Humphrey Bogart (left) plays private eye Philip Marlowe, hired by elderly millionaire “General” Sternwood (Charles Waldron) to break up a sordid blackmail scheme. Health failing, Sternwood holds court in his own private hothouse full of orchids, shivering under blankets, while Marlowe sweats through his shirt.

Although Sternwood’s long since given up cigarettes and cocktails, he encourages Marlowe to partake of both so that he might “indulge his vices by proxy.” He tells the butler to pour Marlowe whatever he chooses from a selection of bottles and crystal decanters, but Marlowe just wants it simple and straight. (Later we’ll see him in a bookstore drinking whiskey neat from a paper cup.):

Sternwood: How do you like your brandy, sir?
Marlowe: In a glass.
Sternwood: I used to like mine with champagne. Champagne cold as Valley Forge and with about three ponies of brandy under it….I like to see people drink.

Brandy and champagne together are the key components of a classic champagne cocktail (last seen at The Celluloid Pantry – and with Humphrey Bogart – in Casablanca), but for something with a little seasonal twist, add some pear to the mix:

Poire William Champagne Cocktail (via
(makes 4 cocktails)

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons poire William (French pear brandy)
2 2/3 cups chilled champagne
1 Seckel or small Bosc pear, sliced

In a small saucepan heat sugar and 1/4 cup poire William over moderate heat until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cool syrup. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons syrup into each of 4 Champagne glasses and add 1 teaspoon poire William to each glass. Add 2/3 cup Champagne to each glass and stir well. Garnish with pear slices.