Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon

A literary cocktail.

The Death in the Afternoon, an absinthe cocktail, consists of the rather unlikely combination of absinthe and Champagne, indeed many afficiandos proclaim the heresy of mixing the two. The drink hails from the mid-thirties and takes its name from a book by Ernest Hemingway.

According to “So Red The Nose” (see bottom), a collection of drinks recipes submitted by prominent 1930s authors, the cocktail was invented by Hemingway himself and he accompanies his recipe with the story of its discovery. The drink was created whilst the author was in the company of three officers on-board the HMS Danae. The four of them had just spent several hours overboard, trying to refloat the fishing boat of a Captain Bra Saunders which had become stuck on a bank during a North-Westerly gale.


On a little historical side-note, the Danae was a light cruiser of the British Navy and was leased to the Polish Navy during World War II. Fans of Hemingway may be interested to note that Captain Willie Adams from his 1937 novel “To Have and Have Not” is thought to have been inspired by Bra Saunders. To have inspired both a cocktail and a Hemingway character surely is some achievement!

Champagne has often been considered a cure for seasickness and so it has been suggested that, during the gale, this is why Hemingway chose this ingredient for this drink. That said, stout and ginger ale have also both been considered potential cures for this ailment and, although I am partial to a drop of ginger, I don’t think that the combination of an anise-flavour spirit and dark beer is quite to my taste.

So does the Death in the Afternoon ruin both the Champagne and the absinthe or do both add up to something grander when mixed?

As with many aspects of drinking and flavour this is a matter of personal discretion. I very much enjoy the cocktail and have shared it with a few friends who find it does work well with other good sparkling wines; however, I would perhaps recommend reserving your bottle of Dom Pérignon, 1952 for another occasion.

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This entry was posted in Vintage Cocktails and tagged , , , , , , , , , , by DTS. Bookmark the permalink.

About DTS

partial to a martini? to a smoke-hazed gin joint & a perfect tipple poured with the style, swank & skill of a true aficionado? …then pull up your stool to the bar, prepare to stock up your cocktail cabinet & get ready to drink it all in as we introduce you to a stitch in times’ resident barman… David T. Smith is a drinks enthusiast currently residing in the U.K. a long-time fan of tasting & exploring various types of alcohol, he has a fascination for vintage spirits and cocktails, in particular their heritage & origins; this was strengthened last year when he presented a talk and accompanying monograph on the Martini. it was as a result of his research of this topic that he was introduced to drinks paraphernalia, & he is now the happy owner of a colourful collection of bottles, books, and gadgets from a wide range of eras… an avid believer in the validity and variety of personal opinion, particularly in the subjective area of tasting, he enjoys hosting tasting sessions for friends, constantly challenging them to find their own favourite tipple. in addition to all of this, he is also interested in economics, three-piece suits, board games & keeping alive the art of engaging in enjoyable conversation with a good glass of port whilst surrounded by pipe smoke… www.summerfruitcup.com Thanks to Analiebe for writing this rather flattering blurb for me.

2 thoughts on “Death in the Afternoon

  1. I adore the photograph of this one – the colours are so dramatic! I don’t know about anyone else, but in my experience, absinthe has a great romantic, mysterious nature surrounding it, and I think that is captured very well in this picture.

  2. Great picture, yes. But what absinthe has in abundance is the flavor of anise. In other words, licorice. In abundance. Coke, which can absorb so many other strong flavors, works just fine. But I’ve got to try 3-5 of this!

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