Death in the Afternoon


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Introduction to Death in the Afternoon

Embark on a journey through the effervescent world of Death in the Afternoon, a cocktail that marries the anise-flavored allure of absinthe with the celebratory sparkle of champagne. This concoction is not just a drink but a nod to the literary giant Ernest Hemingway, who contributed to its fame. Its simplicity is deceptive, hiding a complex flavor profile that’s as enigmatic as its name.

With a history as rich as its taste, Death in the Afternoon is a classic that has stood the test of time. It’s a cocktail that promises a unique sipping experience, perfect for those who appreciate the finer nuances of cocktail crafting. Let’s dive into the world of this storied beverage and uncover the layers that make it a timeless choice for connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.

Whether you’re hosting a brunch or looking to elevate your happy hour, Death in the Afternoon offers a sophisticated option. Its balance of potency and elegance makes it a versatile choice for various occasions. Keep reading to discover the secrets behind this iconic drink and how to perfect it in your own home.

Key Facts About Death in the Afternoon

  • Alcohol Volume: Approximately 22% ABV (44 proof)
  • Calories: Approximately 200 kcal
  • Glass Type: Champagne flute
  • Garnish: None traditionally, but a lemon twist can add a zesty note

Interesting Facts about Death in the Afternoon

Ernest Hemingway’s Creation: The cocktail is often credited to Hemingway, who suggested the recipe should be consumed “slowly, then all at once.”

Louche Effect: The mystical clouding that occurs when absinthe meets champagne is known as the “louche” effect, a visual and taste sensation.

Prohibition Era: Despite its association with the 1920s Prohibition era, this cocktail has endured, continuing to captivate drinkers with its unique flavor and history.

Death in the Afternoon Cocktail

Tasting Notes for Death in the Afternoon

The Death in the Afternoon cocktail is a study in contrasts, with the herbal and slightly bitter notes of absinthe cutting through the crisp, effervescence of champagne. The result is a refreshing yet potent drink that’s both invigorating and relaxing.

Its flavor profile makes it an ideal choice for those who enjoy the complexity of absinthe but also appreciate the lightness that champagne brings to the table. This cocktail is perfect for a sophisticated brunch, a celebratory toast, or as a bold choice for happy hour.

Given its high alcohol content, Death in the Afternoon is best enjoyed in moderation. Its unique taste is sure to appeal to adventurous drinkers looking to explore beyond the standard cocktail offerings.

History of Death in the Afternoon

The origins of Death in the Afternoon are as captivating as the drink itself. The cocktail’s creation is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, who famously included the recipe in a 1935 collection of celebrity cocktail recipes. His instructions were as direct as his prose: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness.”

Hemingway’s association with the drink helped cement its place in cocktail lore. The name itself is taken from Hemingway’s non-fiction work, which reflects on the rituals and tragedy of Spanish bullfighting. This connection adds a layer of cultural depth to the cocktail, linking it to a time of artistic exploration and literary greatness.

Despite its simplicity, Death in the Afternoon has a complexity that has allowed it to endure through the decades. It’s a cocktail that tells a story, inviting drinkers to ponder the past while enjoying the present.

Death in the Afternoon Ingredients

  • Absinthe (1 1/2 ounces or 45 ml): Provides a potent, herbal base with a hint of anise.
  • Chilled Champagne (4 1/2 ounces or 135 ml): Adds effervescence and lightness, balancing the strong flavor of absinthe.

Did you know?

“The Death in the Afternoon cocktail not only offers a taste of history but also a sensory experience with its signature louche effect.”

Preparing Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon Method

Pouring the Absinthe

Begin by measuring 1 1/2 ounces of absinthe and pouring it into a champagne flute. The absinthe serves as the foundation of the cocktail, setting the stage for the flavors to come.

Adding the Champagne

Slowly add 4 1/2 ounces of chilled champagne to the flute. Watch as the clear absinthe turns opaque, creating the mesmerizing louche effect that is characteristic of this drink.

To Stir or Not to Stir

While stirring is optional, some prefer to let the layers of absinthe and champagne mingle naturally. This allows for a gradual blending of flavors as you sip.

Serving Suggestion for Death in the Afternoon

The choice of glass is crucial for Death in the Afternoon. A champagne flute is recommended for its elegance and ability to showcase the cocktail’s visual appeal. The tall, narrow shape also helps retain the carbonation of the champagne.

Traditionally, this cocktail is served without garnish to maintain its simplicity. However, a lemon twist can be added for a touch of citrus aroma, complementing the anise notes of the absinthe.

Elevating Death in the Afternoon

  • Quality Ingredients: Use premium absinthe and high-quality champagne to ensure the best flavor profile.
  • Proper Temperature: Ensure the champagne is well-chilled to enhance the refreshing quality of the drink.
  • Visual Presentation: Serve the cocktail immediately after preparation to preserve the visual effect of the louche and the effervescence of the champagne.

Death in the Afternoon Cocktail Served

Substitutions and Alternatives for Death in the Afternoon

If absinthe is not available, pastis or another anise-flavored spirit can be used as a substitute, though the flavor profile will differ slightly. For those sensitive to the strong taste of absinthe, reducing the quantity may make the drink more approachable.

Similar cocktails that share the sparkling characteristic include the French 75 and the Airmail, both of which combine bubbly champagne with a spirit base.

Add a Twist to Death in the Afternoon

For a modern take, consider infusing the absinthe with botanicals such as lavender or rosemary before mixing. Another variation involves adding a dash of bitters to the cocktail for an extra layer of complexity.

Experiment with different types of sparkling wine, such as prosecco or cava, to adjust the sweetness and flavor profile of the cocktail.

Preferred Liquors for Death in the Afternoon

When crafting Death in the Afternoon, selecting a high-quality absinthe is key. Brands like Pernod Absinthe and St. George Absinthe Verte are known for their superior taste and authenticity.

For the champagne component, a brut or extra brut champagne is ideal for balancing the sweetness of the absinthe. Look for reputable producers such as Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot.

Similar Cocktails to Death in the Afternoon

If you enjoy Death in the Afternoon, you might also appreciate the Sazerac, which features absinthe in a supporting role. The Corpse Reviver #2 is another classic that includes absinthe, offering a citrusy counterpoint to the herbal notes.

The Green Beast is a refreshing alternative that combines absinthe with lime juice, water, and cucumber for a lighter, more hydrating option.

Food Pairings to go with Death in the Afternoon

Pair Death in the Afternoon with savory appetizers like smoked salmon canapés or oysters to complement the drink’s complexity. For a sweet contrast, consider pairing it with almond-based desserts or fruit tarts.

For a more adventurous pairing, try spicy Asian dishes that can stand up to the bold flavors of the cocktail.

Death in the Afternoon FAQs

Can I make Death in the Afternoon ahead of time? It’s best served fresh to enjoy the carbonation and louche effect, but you can pre-measure the absinthe.

Is Death in the Afternoon suitable for large gatherings? Yes, it’s a great conversation starter, but due to its potency, it’s best enjoyed in moderation.

What if I find absinthe too strong? Start with a smaller amount of absinthe and adjust to taste. The champagne will help balance the intensity.

Can I use a different type of glass? While a champagne flute is traditional, a coupe glass can also be used for a vintage feel.

Is there a non-alcoholic version of Death in the Afternoon? Non-alcoholic anise-flavored syrups and sparkling grape juice can mimic the flavor profile for a mocktail version.

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Death in the Afternoon

A hauntingly refreshing cocktail, Death in the Afternoon, also known as Hemingway's favorite, is a potent blend of absinthe and champagne. It's simplicity belies a depth that's as intriguing as its literary namesake.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Cocktail
Cuisine French
Servings 1 cocktail
Calories 200 kcal


  • Champagne flute
  • Bar spoon (optional for stirring)


  • 1 1/2 ounces absinthe
  • 4 1/2 ounces chilled champagne


  • Pour the absinthe into a champagne flute.
  • Carefully add the chilled champagne until it clouds up, often referred to as the "louche" effect.
  • Stir gently if desired, though traditionalists may prefer to let the layers remain separate.


The Death in the Afternoon cocktail is often associated with Ernest Hemingway who is said to have invented the drink. It should be enjoyed with caution due to its high alcohol content. The cocktail's name comes from Hemingway's book of the same name.
Keyword absinthe, absinthe cocktail, Brunch, champagne, Champagne Cocktail, classic, Cocktail, Death in the Afternoon, Easy, Happy Hour, Hemingway, Sparkling

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