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Death in the Afternoon

The Death in the Afternoon cocktail is a potent drink that was invented by none other than Ernest Hemingway, the renowned author and avid drinker. The cocktail is a mix of absinthe and champagne, and it’s said to have been inspired by Hemingway’s love of Spanish bullfighting.

death in the afternoon cocktail

To make the Death in the Afternoon cocktail, you’ll need a glass of absinthe and a glass of chilled champagne. The absinthe is poured into a coupe glass, and then the champagne is slowly added on top. The result is a potent and slightly sweet cocktail that’s perfect for sipping on a hot summer day. Some people like to add a twist of lemon peel for an extra burst of flavor, but it’s not necessary. Whether you’re a fan of Hemingway’s writing or just looking for a new cocktail to try, the Death in the Afternoon is definitely worth a taste.

How to Make It

death in the afternoon cocktail

Death in the Afternoon

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes

Making a Death in the Afternoon cocktail is surprisingly easy. You only need two ingredients: absinthe and champagne.

Here's how to make it:


  • 1 1/2 oz absinthe
  • 4 1/2 oz chilled Champagne, to top
  • Garnish with a rose petal or lemon twist


  1. Chill your champagne flute or coupe in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before making the cocktail.
  2. Pour a jigger of absinthe (1.5 ounces) into the chilled glass. Note that you can use any brand of absinthe, but Hemingway's favorite was Pernod.
  3. Top the absinthe with chilled champagne or sparkling wine. You can also use prosecco or cava as an alternative to champagne.
  4. Stir gently to combine the ingredients. Be careful not to stir too vigorously, as this can cause spontaneous emulsification, resulting in an opalescent milkiness in the cocktail.
  5. Garnish with a sugar cube or a lemon twist. Some people also like to add a dash of bitters for extra flavor.


Note that some recipes call for a sugar cube soaked in absinthe to be added to the glass before topping with champagne. This is known as the "so red the nose" method and is said to enhance the flavor of the cocktail.

See also  12 Must-Try Absinthe Brands

If you find the cocktail too strong, you can add a splash of simple syrup or pastis to sweeten it up. However, keep in mind that Death in the Afternoon is a high-strength cocktail, so drink it responsibly.

In terms of nutrition, a Death in the Afternoon cocktail contains approximately 150 calories and has an alcohol content of around 30% ABV or 60 proof. It's important to note that absinthe does not have hallucinogenic properties, despite its reputation.

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The Death in the Afternoon cocktail is a classic cocktail that has been around since the 1930s. It is a unique cocktail that was invented by the famous author, Ernest Hemingway. The cocktail is named after Hemingway’s book, Death in the Afternoon, which was a non-fiction book about Spanish bullfighting.

Death in the Afternoon cocktail with ingredients in the background

The origin of the Death in the Afternoon cocktail can be traced back to Hemingway’s time in France. It is said that Hemingway was introduced to absinthe during his time in France and became quite fond of it. He then came up with the idea of mixing absinthe with Champagne to create the Death in the Afternoon cocktail.

The first published recipe for the Death in the Afternoon cocktail appeared in a cocktail book in 1935 called So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon. Hemingway’s recipe called for a generous amount of absinthe, which was toned down in later versions of the recipe.

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The Death in the Afternoon cocktail gained further notoriety when Hemingway introduced it to the crew of the H.M.S. Danae, a fishing boat he was on in 1937. The officers on board were said to have consumed the cocktail for seven hours straight before one of them fell overboard. The captain of the boat, Capt. Bra Saunders, then banned the cocktail from being served on board.


There are various ways to tweak the classic Death in the Afternoon cocktail recipe to suit your taste preferences. Here are a few variations you can try:

Wormwood-free Absinthe

If you’re not a fan of the bitter taste of wormwood, you can try using absinthe that is free of this ingredient. Brands like Absente and Pernod offer wormwood-free absinthe that still give the cocktail its signature anise flavor.

Sugar Cube

The original recipe calls for a sugar cube to be added to the absinthe before the champagne is poured over it. If you find this too sweet, you can skip the sugar cube altogether or use less sugar.

Prosecco or Cava

If you prefer a less effervescent cocktail, you can use prosecco or cava instead of champagne. This will give the drink a slightly different flavor profile but still maintain its bubbly character.


You can garnish the cocktail with a rose petal or a lemon zest twist to add a pop of color and flavor. Alternatively, you can skip the garnish altogether.

Alternative Ways to Pour

While the classic recipe calls for pouring the champagne over the absinthe, you can also try pouring the absinthe on top instead. This will create a pastis effect, where the absinthe turns cloudy due to spontaneous emulsification. Another alternative way to pour is to mix the absinthe and champagne together in a shaker with ice, creating a daiquiri-style cocktail.

See also  14 Must-Try Champagnes Under $30
Death in the Afternoon
Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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Paul Kushner

Written by Paul Kushner

Founder and CEO of MyBartender. Graduated from Penn State University. He always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. His restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time he turned 17 he was serving tables, and by 19 he was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, Paul opened his first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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