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Cover: Shaken and stirred

01May 12

Death in the Afternoon

Death in the afternoonWhen I was a teenager, my mother gave me a book called “Death in the Afternoon” one Christmas. It is an Ernest Hemingway classic, a nonfiction account of the customs of Spanish bullfighting. Many years later, I attended a party where I was offered a cocktail that happened to be called Death in the Afternoon too. At the time, it just felt like a coincidence, but after some research, I found out it was not only named in honour of the book, but also that it had been invented by the author himself!

In 1932, Ernest Hemingway was living in Europe, and there is ample documentation of his time spent in bars and cafés across the continent. The cocktail itself was reportedly invented by Hemingway on one of the Channel Islands “with some Brits after a spot of nautical unpleasantness”.

The key ingredient to a Death in the Afternoon is the infamous absinthe, which is a distilled, highly alcoholic beverage. It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including wormwood. It originated in the Neuchatel canton of Switzerland in the late 18th century and became very popular in the early 20th century among Parisian artists and writers. Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. The chemical compound thujone, although present in the spirit in only tiny amounts, was the perfect excuse to have it banned. In the 1990s, there was a revival of the drink, and long-standing barriers to its production and sale were removed.

The only other beverage in a Death in the Afternoon is champagne, though there has been much arguing over what sort. According to Hemingway’s friends, he wasn’t too picky and drank almost anything, as did the characters in his novels. Whether the champagne was meant to be Brut or Extra Brut is only a small detail. (Also try this classic champagne cocktail.)

Death in the Afternoon is very strong. You can taste the smell of the absinthe, and it overpowers the champagne taste. However, the bubbles give it a nice tickle in your mouth. Regarding how to make the perfect one, Ernest Hemingway can end this story in his own words: “”Pour one jigger of absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne… Drink three to five of these slowly.”


  •  3cl absinthe
  •  Champagne

How to make it:

1. Pour absinthe into a champagne flute.
2.Top with chilled champagne.

Time: 1 minute

Makes: 1 cocktail

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