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Mystery on the Rocks: 8 Delicious Cocktail Recipes Inspired by Our Favorite Fictional Detectives

From Marlowe's Gimlet to Sherlock's black tea toddy, these mystery-inspired cocktails are sure to put you in the sleuthing mood.

detective cocktail recipes
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  • Photo Credit: Peter Ruck / BIPs / Getty Images

Let’s cut to the chase: fictional detectives love their booze. And after a long night of dodging hoods and busting crooks, who wouldn’t want a stiff drink?

Thankfully, you don’t have to hit the streets to drink with the best of them. So don that tan trench coat and crack open the liquor cabinet. Here are a few of our favorite detective cocktail recipes to put you in the sleuthing mood.

1. Philip Marlowe's Gimlet

Raymond Chandler’s quick-talking gumshoe Philip Marlowe drinks down this cocktail in the opening scenes of The Long Goodbye, alongside a shifty barfly by the name of Terry Lennox. While Lennox clearly spells trouble, Marlowe stays for another round, as the Gimlet goes down like gangbusters.

Related: 8 Crime Noir Books That Will Have You Reaching for Your Trench Coat 


• 2 oz gin

• 1 oz lime juice

Pour gin and lime juice in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir well and strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with lime.

2. Nick and Nora Charles' Bronx

Dashiell Hammett’s lush crime solving sweethearts from New York City in The Thin Man share a love for snappy dialogue and copious amounts of alcohol. This speakeasy cocktail is the perfect compliment to a mysterious night out on the town.


• 1 1/2 oz gin

• 1/2 oz sweet vermouth

• 1/2 oz dry vermouth

• 1 oz orange juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

3. Sam Spade's A Reasonable Amount of Trouble

detective cocktails
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  • Photo Credit: Peter Ruck / Stringer

Hammett’s second creation, the moody San Francisco sleuth Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon, is the exact opposite of Nick and Nora; he is gruff, rough, and an absolute loner. Nevertheless, this icy PI shares one thing in common with the fun-loving couple—a definite love of drink. Nashville’s Patterson House created a cocktail in honor of beloved gumshoe. [via Pursuit Magazine]


• 2 oz spiced rum

• 1/4 oz Lyle’s golden syrup

• 7 drops lime bitters

• 1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters

• Mezcal-rinsed glass

Combine Lyle’s, rum, and lime bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain over ice-filled glass that has been rinsed with Creme de Mezcal. Add a dash of Peychaud’s and zest with orange peel.

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4. James Bond's Vesper Martini

James Bond is no stranger to martinis and this truly unique mixed drink is the best of the bunch. Bond creates the cocktail on the spot in Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first installment in the beloved spy series. The drink is named after 007’s love interest in the novel, the alluring Vesper Lynd.

Related: 8 Spies Who Wrote About Spies 


• 1/2 oz Lillet blanc

• 3 oz gin

• 1 oz vodka

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon. Makes 2 martinis.

5. Rust Cohle's Rust-y Nail

detective cocktails
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  • Photo Credit: Baron / Stringer

Fans of True Detective know that Rust Cohle is no stranger to the bottle. And while there’s no question that the solitary detective would prefer a six pack of Lone Star over some extravagant cocktail, this sweet and smoky Bourbon street treat from Brooklyn Magazine would surely catch his eye.


• 1 1/2 oz bourbon

• 3/4 oz Drambuie

• Lemon twist for garnish

Pour bourbon and Drambuie into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Stir well. Garnish with the lemon twist.

6. Kurt Wallander's Irish Coffee

Henning Mankell’s brooding Swedish detective can often be found contemplating his case with a glass of straight whiskey and an opera record on repeat. Nevertheless, we feel a warm and caffeinated cocktail would do wonders for the obsessive detective–especially on those long and lonely Scandinavian nights in Faceless Killers.

Related: 12 Heart-Pounding Foreign Thrillers in Translation 


• 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

• 1 tbsp brown sugar

• 1 1/2 oz whiskey

• Heavy cream, slightly whipped

Pour hot coffee into a warmed mug. Add brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in whiskey. Top with whipped heavy cream by pouring over the back of a spoon.

7. Inspector Jules Maigret's The Corpse Reviver #2

Georges Simenon’s persistent Inspector Magritte from The Shadow Puppet always seems to find time for a quick bite and fine drink at a French cafe while cracking each case. This smooth cognac cocktail is the perfect treat for a determined detective with a highly refined palate.


• 1 oz gin

• 1 oz Cointreau orange liqueur

• 1 oz Lillet blanc

• 1 dash of absinthe

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

8. Sherlock Holmes' Chilled Black Tea Toddy

detective cocktails
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  • Photo Credit: Gillette / Stringer

Many are astonished to discover Sherlock Holmes’ complicated history with substance abuse–cocaine and morphine use appears throughout Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Thankfully, the brilliant British detective had a taste for far less illicit vices as well. This smoky tea-infused cocktail is the perfect to sip while contemplating the mysteries of the foggy city streets.

Related: The 10 Best Sherlock Holmes Portrayals on Film and TV—Ranked 


• 1 1/2 oz single-malt Scotch

• 2 oz chilled brewed Lapsang souchong tea

• 1 oz honey syrup

• 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass. Stir well and strain into an ice-filled glass.

Featured photo: Peter Ruck / BIPs / Getty Images