Death in the Afternoon Cocktail Recipe

A Death in the Afternoon cocktail is reserved for absinthe and anise flavored drink lovers. If you are on the fence about either flavor profile, you will be sorely disappointed by this cocktail. Should you love the flavors of anise, licorice, or wormwood, you’ll be delighted by this simple, refreshing cocktail.

Death in the afternoon cocktail recipe

It’s to be expected that any cocktail invented by Ernest Hemingway, one of the fathers of 20th century American literature, would come with a story. This simple beverage, featuring just absinthe and Champagne, was named after his 1932 nonfiction account of Spanish bullfighting titled, Death in the Afternoon.

It was quite a different adventure, however, that caused Hemingway to create this stirring cocktail. Death in the Afternoon is the first entry in the 1935 cocktail book “So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon,” featuring recipes from 30 celebrity authors.

In the book, Hemingway explains that this drink was concocted by himself and three officers of the H.M.S. Danae “after having spent seven hours overboard trying to get Capt. Bra Saunders’ fishing boat off a bank where she had gone with us in a N.W. gale.” This surely had to have been a notable afternoon for the adventurous author to inspire such a devilishly named beverage.

If you wish to drink this cocktail exactly as old man Hemingway intended, here are his precise instructions: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

As for the “opalescent milkiness” Hemingway speaks of, this is a fun chemical reaction that can be witnessed any time water is mixed with an anise-flavored liqueur such as absinthe. Absinthe was a notably popular spirit among artists and writers at the time. This reaction, called the ouzo effect, can be seen when Champagne is added to the cocktail.

If you are partial to the herbal flavors of anise and wormwood, you’ll be delighted by this uniquely refreshing cocktail. You don’t need to be lounging along the river Seine in Paris like Hemingway surely did to enjoy this drink. No matter where you are, all you need is a good book in one hand and this cocktail in the other to get the full experience of a Death in the Afternoon

As for the green? I changed the colors of my lights for the effect.

Death in the afternoon for halloween

Death in the Afternoon is also a great Halloween cocktail with a bit of dry ice and green food coloring.

Death in the afternoon for halloween and dry ice

Death in the Afternoon Cocktail

Michael Kahn
5 from 1 vote
Course Cocktail


  • 1 1/2 oz Absinthe For best results, use a clear absinthe from Switzerland or France
  • 4 1/2 oz Champagne A dry sparkling wine may be used as a substitution


  • Pour absinthe into a coupe glass.
    1 1/2 oz Absinthe
  • Top with champagne.
    4 1/2 oz Champagne
  • Serve. Cheers!
Keyword absinthe, Champagne
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Weekly Updates and Email List Exclusives for Subscribers Only!
Invalid email address

Leave a Comment

Rate this Recipe