Life or Death In The Afternoon

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Life or death in the afternoon is a tribute to Ernest Hemingway, a world-class spirits connoisseur. This is a fine example of his drinking prowess beyond mojitos and daiquiris. He and three officers of the HMS Danae created it while celebrating after an arduous, but successful sea rescue operation. They named it after Hemingway’s recently published novel – Death in the Afternoon.

The recipe is documented in a 1935 cocktail book titled So Red the Nose, or, Breath in the Afternoon. The instructions, in an unusual display of specificity advises drinking 3 to 5 of them in quick succession. Given the higher ABV of absinthe in his era it might result in death of the fool that followed the instructions to the letter.

Absinthe, also known as “the green fairy” is a highly alcoholic, naturally green spirit. It is anise flavored and created from various herbs and the leaves and flowers of wormwood. Early in the 20th century it was banned in the U.S. and Europe for it’s alleged psychoactive ingredients and hallucinatory effects. Legend has it that Lewis Carroll imagined and wrote Alice in Wonderland under its influence.

Life or death in the afternoon gives you, the cocktail enthusiast, a choice of the original or my modern recipe. The flavor will enthrall licorice lovers and give you a glimpse of the absinthe experience. Choose wisely!

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When you add enough champagne to turn the “louche” cloudy, it’s ready. Print

Life or Death In The Afternoon

Absinthe, champagne, sugar and simple syrup

  • Author: Tim



Death in the Afternoon – Ernest Hemingway’s Original

  • 11/2 oz absinthe
  • 41/2 oz dry champagne
  • Drink 35 of them in quick succession

Life In The Afternoon – a Modern Version

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1 oz absinthe – 68% ABV – chilled
  • 45 oz dry champagne, cava or prosecco – chilled
  • Slowly sip one or two


  1. Chill the coupe glass, bubbly wine of your choice and absinthe in the refrigerator, because there is no ice involved in preparation for cooling or dilution
  2. Place the sugar cube in the glass, add the simple syrup over the cube, pour over the absinthe followed by the cold bubbly wine