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Cover: Shaken and stirred

Recipes with anise

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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24Apr 12

Hot Toddy

Hot toddyA few years ago, I decided to join some friends who were working as ski instructors in Austria for a couple of weeks. I was actually on my way back from somewhere hot and wasn’t ready for the cold that hit me when I arrived in Lech. In order to warm myself up, I ran into a bar downtown and ordered a Hot Toddy. Luckily, the bartender was from Bolton and understood my request. He gave me a big smile and said, “There is nothing in the world that compares to a good Hot Toddy on a lousy day, is there lad?”

The Hot Toddy is usually known as a winter beverage made from a distilled spirit (whiskey or brandy preferably), sugar and water. It is believed to be very good for people who have the flu or are feeling under the weather. When I was growing up, sometimes my Dad would tell my Mum that he was not feeling very well. Her reply was always,“Shall I make you a Hot Toddy then, Love?”

As to where the name of the drink comes from, it has been suggested that the name comes from the Toddy drink in India produced by fermenting the sap of Palm trees. The term could have been introduced into Scotland by a member of the British East India Company. Another version says it is believed to have originated in 18th century Scotland as a mixed drink to make Scotch drinks more palatable to women. (This pink scotch drink may be pink, but it is delectable for men and women alike!)

Regardless of where it comes from, when I feel cold and somewhat miserable, a nice Hot Toddy always cheers me up.


  • 3 cl of brandy, whiskey or rum
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tea bag of your favorite tea
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise

How my Mum used to make it:

  1. Coat the bottom of a mug with the honey.
  2. Add the liquor.
  3. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon.
  4. Heat the cup of water and add the tea bag to make hot tea.
  5. Pour the hot tea into the mug and stir.
  6. Garnish with the cinnamon sticks and anise.

If you’re not a tea drinker, you can substitute coffee or simply add only the hot water.

Time: between 3 and 5 minutes
Makes: 1 tea size mug

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