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 are named after him, like the Hemingway Daiquiri others are popular favorites of the author, like the Mojito or the Americano. But the recipe for the Death in the Afternoon cocktail, he actually created himself.
Quick facts Death in the Afternoon Cocktail
- Method: built in glass
- Flavor profile: dry, herbal
- How to serve it: chilled, without ice
- Glassware: champagne flute
- Alcohol content: ~ 15% ABV, 13 grams of alcohol per serving
The unexpected blend of sparkling wine and absinthe, also known as the Green Fairy, creates an interesting drink with a mystic, slightly murky look.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Bar spoon
- 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
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 is certainly an eye-catcher at every party.
- Absinthe: the anise-flavored, overproof spirit is what makes this drink stand out. Combining the green liquor with something as delicate as champagne might not be the most obvious choice, but it works. If you're looking for a recommendation, try St. George Absinthe Verte or La Fee Parisienne.
- Champagne: The original drink mixed by Ernest Hemingway was asking for champagne. However, you don't have to spend that much. Instead, consider a more affordable quality bubbly, like an Italian Prosecco Spumante, a Spanish Cava, or a German Sekt. Just make sure you don't end up with an overly sweet one. Opt for extra dry or brut. These work best in the Death in the Afternoon recipe.
- Simple Syrup: A 1:1 mix of sugar and water you can get in most supermarkets or easily make at home. It brings the necessary sweetness without altering the flavor of the drink. - Exactly what you want for this cocktail.
Tips for preparation
The Death in the Afternoon Cocktail is easy to make, and you can build it directly in your champagne glass. Since you don't need ice for mixing the drink, make sure all ingredients are well chilled. I also advise putting the glass into the freezer for a few minutes or filling it with ice cubes before prepping the cocktail.
For the sparkling wine part, we prefer to use a bottle with more carbonation. However, some people don't like or cannot tolerate overly fizzy beverages. In this case, consider opting for a sparkling wine with lower carbonation, like a Prosecco frizzante. - That's not always a good alternative in bubbly drinks, but it works for the Death in the Afternoon recipe.
Why does it look cloudy?
Since neither champagne nor absinthe are usually cloudy, you might wonder how it comes that the resulting cocktail is.
The reason why the cocktail turns cloudy is chemistry. As soon as the absinthe mixes with champagne, the so-called Louche effect occurs. -It always does when watery elements hit anise-flavored liquors.
The Louche effect, or Ouzo effect, describes the chemical reaction called emulsion: Two normally immiscible liquids mixed without visible segregation.
History of the Death in the Afternoon Cocktail
The original version of this drink was an invention of the writer Ernest Hemingway, who probably created it in the early 1930s. Initially, the recipe was without simple syrup. Hardly surprising, considering that Hemingway was a diabetic and known to like his drinks high-proof and dry.
The green spirit of Swiss origin was banned in most Western countries until the early 2000s, and people believed it would cause hallucinations.
Yet, Hemingway surely couldn't care less. He might even have been disappointed had he lived to learn that absinthe does not make you hallucinate after all.
Either way, the spirit never lost its fascination, and it seems a suitable choice for someone as eccentric as Ernest Hemingway.
The Death in the Afternoon recipe also shares its name with one of Hemingway's books, published in 1932, about the ceremony and traditions of Spanish bullfighting.
In 1935, he 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."Ernest Hemingway
You see, no sugar involved. Instead, he provided precise instructions regarding the appropriate intake of this drink.
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 our recipe.
Other Absinthe Cocktails
The Death in the Afternoon drink is a fantastic cocktail if you haven't had absinthe before. You can taste the anise and the edge of this overproof spirit, but the combination with champagne makes for a smooth introduction.
Other drinks with a hint of absinthe are:
Or, if you want something heavier on the Green Fairy, try
- The Necromancer: a mix of absinthe, Lillet, and elderflower.
- The Dark Fairy Cream: a chocolaty after-dinner composition.
For more, check out our list of the 10 best Absinthe Cocktails.
Other Champagne Cocktails
More popular cocktails made with sparkling wine that we recommend trying are:
- The French 75: A bubbly mix of lemon juice, gin, and syrup that will knock your socks off.
- The Kir Royale Cocktail: An elegant and classy two-component drink with creme de cassis.
- The Champagne Cocktail: This one is more elaborate than it sounds. It combines Champagne with Cognac, bitters, and a sugar cube to keep things bubbling.