Death in the Afternoon

By Sina Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

Death in the Afternoon is a creation of Ernest Hemingway. -The genius but egomaniac author who was as famous for his drinking habits as he was for his writing.
Death in the Afternoon Cocktail

The Death in the Afternoon cocktail is a simple but intriguing combination of Champagne with the most mysterious of spirits: Absinthe. It's easy to make, has a truly unique taste, and has an even more distinctive color.

The name Ernest Hemingway often comes up in connection to alcoholic drinks. Some cocktails even are named after him, like the Papa Noble, also known as Hemingway Daiquiri. And others are known to have been his favorite, like the Mojito or the Americano

But there's one drink he created himself, namely the Death in the Afternoon cocktail. -An unexpected blend of sparkling wine and Absinthe.

Ingredients of the Death in the Afternoon

The Death in Afternoon is a three-component cocktail consisting of Absinthe, simple syrup, and Champagne. It has an opaque, green appearance and certainly is an eye-catcher at every party.


Absinthe -also known as the Green Fairy- is an anise-flavored, overproof spirit. And it certainly is what makes this drink so remarkable. Combining the green liquor with something as delicate as Champagne might not be the most obvious choice. But it works.

The green spirit of Swiss origin had been banned in most western countries until the early 2000s. For a very long time, people believed it would cause hallucinations. Hence, the byname Green Fairy. 

Absinthe Cocktail

Some might be relieved, some disappointed, but, it turned out, Absinthe does not make you hallucinate. Nonetheless, it never lost its fascination, and it is a suitable choice for someone as eccentric as Ernest Hemingway.

If you're looking for a recommendation on which Absinthe to use in the Death in the Afternoon, try St. George Absinthe Verte, or La Fee Parisienne.


The original drink mixed by Ernest Hemingway was asking for Champagne. 

However, you don't have to spend that much and can instead go for a more affordable quality bubbly.

Italian Prosecco Spumante, a Spanish Cava, or a German Sekt are great alternatives to the French premium sparkling wine. 

Just make sure you don't end up with an overly sweet bubbly. Check for the terms extra dry or brut (less sweet than extry dry) on the label. Those two types work perfectly for the Death in the Afternoon cocktail.

Syrup in the Death in the Afternoon

Numerous drinks, for instance, the Gin Fizz, some Sour cocktails, etc., work beautifully with flavored syrups. However, I advise you to stick to regular simple syrup in this case.

Simple syrup is a 1:1 mix of sugar and water that you can easily make at home. It brings the necessary sweetness without altering the flavor of the drink. -Which is exactly what you want for the Death in the Afternoon.

Death in the Afternoon cocktail

Why does it look cloudy?

Since neither Champagne nor Absinthe usually are cloudy, you might wonder how it comes that the resulting cocktail is.

The reason why the cocktail turns cloudy is chemistry. Because as soon as the Absinthe gets in contact with the Champagne, the so-called Louche effect occurs. -It always does when water hits anise-flavored liquors.

The Louche-effect, or Ouzo-effect, describes the chemical reaction called emulsion: Two normally immiscible liquids mixed without visible segregation. But enough science.

History of the Death in the Afternoon cocktail

The original version of this drink is without simple syrup. Ernest Hemingway created it probably in the early 1930s. 

Additionally, the drink shares its name with one of his books published in 1932. It is about the ceremony and traditions of Spanish bullfighting. 

Death in the Afternoon cocktail

In 1935, Hemingway contributed his creation to a cocktail book (So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon) featuring celebrity recipes. He wrote: 

"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."

You see, no sugar involved. Instead, he provides quite precise instructions regarding the appropriate amount. 

However, because not everyone is as seasoned a drinker as Mr. Hemingways was, we now have a splash of simple syrup but dropped the instructions on the intake. -If you want the original, skip the syrup in the recipe below.

Other Absinthe Cocktails

The Death in the Afternoon drink is a fantastic cocktail if you never had Absinthe before. The Absinthe is definitely there, but the combination with Champagne makes for a very smooth introduction to the spirit.

Cocktails that are also good to get an idea of Absinthe are, for instance, the Tuxedo cocktail or the Monkey Gland. For those two, the Absinthe is not the dominant flavor, though.

Monkey Gland cocktail garnished with orange

So, if you look for something more heavy on the Green Fairy, try the Necromancer or the Dark Fairy Cream. The first is a mix of Absinthe, Lillet, and Elderflower. The second is a chocolaty after-dinner composition.

For more, head over to our list of the 10 best Absinthe cocktails.

Other Champagne Cocktails

A popular cocktail made with Champagne is the French 75. Besides the bubbly, it contains lemon juice, Gin, and a splash of syrup. 

French 75 cocktail in Champagne flutes with garnish

Also, if you like it elegant and classy, then the Kir or Kir Royale Cocktail is a brilliant option. It's a two-component drink consisting of bubbly and creme de cassis.

The Champagne Cocktail is another drink worth trying. This one is more elaborate than it sounds. It combines Champagne with Cognac, bitters, and a sugar cube to keep things bubbling.

Death in the Afternoon cocktail

Death in the Afternoon

A simple, yet unusual combination of Champagne and Absinthe, invented by the infamous E. Hemingway.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: French
Keyword: absinthe, Champagne
Servings: 1 people
Calories: 143kcal
Cost: $7 (with Champagne)



  • 2 tsp Absinthe
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 4.5 oz Champagne More affordable quality bubbly like Prosecco also work.


  • Chill your glass by adding some ice to it. Once the glass feels cold, remove the ice.
  • Pour in Absinthe and simple syrup and stir well.
    2 tsp Absinthe, 1 tsp simple syrup
  • Fill the glass up with Champagne. Santé.
    4.5 oz Champagne


Serving: 5oz | Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Fat: 0.16g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 427mg | Sugar: 56g | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 3.3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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