My collection of vintage cookbooks is actually an offshoot of a more general book habit. I’ve been converted recently to the joys of e-book readers, but I still really love the smell and feel of old trade paperbacks. Which is why I found myself browsing through my parents’ books, and picking up a 1970s copy of The Big Sleep. Food, I found, follows me even into my non-cookbook vintage adventures: in Chapter 2, as Philip Marlowe gets drawn into the affairs of the Sternwoods, the aged patriarch of that family tells the P.I., “I used to like my brandy with champagne. The champagne as cold as Valley Forge and about a third of a glass of brandy beneath it.” I was reading my book on the train this weekend (a perfect place for hardboiled crime stories) and was unable to stop thinking about it until I tried it today. It was delicious; I’m still unable to stop thinking on it.
While champagne and brandy might be delicious on their own, I decided to add a few ingredients to make this a little more acceptable to the modern palate. I took inspiration from the classic French 75 cocktail, and added sugar and lemon juice to the hard liquor.
Then just top it up with frigid champagne (or other sparkling wine, since we have the luxury of choice these days). Cheers!
The Big Sleep
1 1/2 oz. cognac
1 tsp sugar (superfine if possible)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
5 oz. sparkling wine (brut champagne or cava, preferably)
1. Pour the brandy, sugar, and lemon juice in a champagne flute and mix gently with a stirrer.
2. Top up with chilled sparkling wine and serve.