The “Death in the Afternoon” Cocktail Recipe

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There are a lot of interesting stories related to Absinthe, this special drink that was initially made using opium back when it was invented hundreds of years ago. Absinthe is also related to stories of hallucinations, wild and decadent parties and creative inspiration. The mixed drink we are going to talk about next is called the Death in the Afternoon cocktail and it is made using absinthe. The most interesting thing about it is that it was invented by the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway, which is why it also got the name Hemingway or the Hemingway Champagne.

The recipe for the Death in the Afternoon cocktail is simple: you mix champagne and absinthe in the quantities you prefer and serve it in a champagne flute. The drink was also named after Hemingway’s eponymous book, Death in the Afternoon, and it was created with the occasion of a cocktail book; the book was named So Red the Nose, Breath in the Afternoon and it was published in 1935. The book featured numerous cocktail recipes, but what made it special were the contributions of famous authors.

In the book The Ultimate Bar Book, we read that this was Hemingway’s favorite drink, although it was by no means the only cocktail he invented. The author was an avid drinker, and he was even known in famous European cities for scouting for special cocktails, or for visiting certain cities in a specific period because that is when a particular seasonal cocktail was served. In the cocktail book, Hemingway specifies preparing the drink by adding “one jigger” of absinthe in a champagne flute and completing with champagne until the drink got a milky appearance. The most amusing part is the indication on how to consume the Death in the Afternoon cocktail: “Drink three to five of these slowly”.

What is amusing about his comment is that the beverage is known to be very strong and potent, so for a normal drinker the amounts indicated by Hemingway would definitely lead to severe drunkenness. Stories claim Hemingway first drank absinthe in Paris, on the Left Bank, and he enjoyed it so much that he continued drinking it and creating cocktails with it, such as the Death in the Gulf-Stream, which was made using genever.

There are numerous variations of the Death in the Afternoon cocktail not only because there are many versions of absinthe, but also because in some parts getting this drink was difficult or impossible. Some recipes, for example, specify pouring the absinthe lastly because certain types float over the champagne for a while, thus creating an interesting layered effect. In places where absinthe is illegal or impossible to procure, bartenders use Absente or Pernod, which is a strong pastis. Other variations include adding a cube of sugar and a few dashes of bitters, or mixing the absinthe with lemon juice, sugar and water before pouring it over the champagne.

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