Here's to Hemingway!

Here’s to Hemingway!

I’ve decided to start a new hobby. Grab your milk thistle. It’s time for VINTAGE COCKTAILS!!!

Those of you who know me will also know that I thoroughly enjoy adult beverages. I used to bartend and always dreamed of owning a bar. I thought I’d make my happy hour more interesting by bringing back some of those obscure cocktails of old and sharing them with my readers.

Today’s vintage cocktail is Death in the Afternoon, a potent concoction invented by Ernest Hemingway himself. This is a simple but complex tasting drink. What better way to inspire some writing?

Want to learn how to make it? Read on…



champagne glass



1 jigger of absinthe

Fill with iced champagne


There are two ways to make the Death in the Afternoon cocktail. Hemingway would pour the absinthe first and then add the champagne. Alternatively, you can add the absinthe after the champagne, creating a floater–or so they say.

Death in the Afternoon absinthe on bottom

a la Ernie

I tried Hemingway’s version first. Let me warn you: this is a very strong cocktail. The absinthe being almost 140 proof, the champagne does little to dilute the alcohol. It took a few sips to get accustomed to the flavor and the strength. After awhile, it becomes addictive. First you taste the tang of the champagne, and then you experience a zingy anis finish. It’s a surreal combo–funky and ethereal. I also tried adding a dash of Angostura bitters, which added a nice depth.

For the second cocktail, I tried to pour the absinthe on top, but the liquor sank into the rest of the champagne without floating much at all. I think next time I will try to pour the absinthe gently over spoon, like you would when making a black and tan.

Not willing to experiment with any expensive champagne, I choose a Spanish cava, Freixenet, that tastes great and is priced under $20. Confession: I’ve been drinking this sparkling wine for years and was never sure how to pronounce it. I finally looked it up. I was relieved to find out that Freixenet is pronounced fresh-eh-NET, which was how I’ve been saying it all along. Whew!

I chilled it in the freezer for a few minutes before opening it because I wanted to compensate for my absinthe, which was at room temperature.

Death in the Afternoon Ingredients

Sublime ingredients

The absinthe I used, La Fée, is endorsed by the French Absinthe Museum in Paris, and is only brand I have found in Panama so far.

I love how when mixing it with the champagne it retains that jade-like opalescence. When I mix it with water it twirls into a whiter, cloudier louche.

I just found out absinthe was legal again (word travels slowly to Panama) and I had to buy it. In my third book, some strange fellows take my characters to a clandestine absinthe bar in New Orleans. It’s my duty as a writer to do the proper research, right?

Absinthe on top. It's a little greener up there.

Absinthe on top. It’s a little greener up there.

Plus, being a fan of everything that blossomed forth from the Belle Époque and The Gilded Age, I wanted to drink the same infamous green fairy that was not only favored by Hemingway, but by many other heros of mine, like Oscar Wilde and Vincent van Gogh.

Absinthe was outlawed after being blamed for cases of hallucinations and insanity because of it’s unique ingredient, wormwood. But I can tell you firsthand I didn’t experience any more delusions than I usually have. Ernest prescribes drinking three to five, slowly. Maybe I should have continued, but…

After two of these cocktails, I took a glorious nap. I drifted off into pearly-green dreams while listening to music. I guess, in a way, that it was a death in the afternoon. A pleasant way to go!

Have you ever tried absinthe?

How do you like your Death in the Afternoon?

Do you know any absinthe or champagne cocktail recipes?