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Death in the Afternoon Cocktail Recipe

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Last Updated on June 10, 2023 by Leah Hall

The purported inventor of this classic cocktail was Ernest Hemingway. He was a champion drinker and recommended drinking 3-5 of these slowly. You may want to do less than 5!


Ernest Hemingway loved drinking as much as he did writing. His advice, circa 1935 with this cocktail: “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.”


I don’t know about you, but that would end my day super early!

Opaque cocktail in coupe

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While Hemingway wouldn’t necessarily drink while writing (“the only time drinking isn’t good for you is when you write or when you fight”) he would often write about his passion for the world of spirits.

Opaque cocktail in coupe

He wrote a lot about absinthe and champagne, once saying that he could think of no better way to spend money than to buy champagne. I think I agree!


In 1932, he published Death in the Afternoon, a novel on Spanish bullfighting, and then while living in Key West, submitted a recipe for a cocktail called “Death in the Afternoon” to a celebrity recipe compilation book published in 1935.


Death in the Afternoon

While Death in the Afternoon cocktail is a simple concoction (2 ingredients!) it is certainly not for the faint of heart. Because it’s a potent mixture of Absinthe and Champagne—and that’s it. Then, factor in the ABV of the Absinthe in Hemingway’s time (probably significantly higher than it is today), and the suggested liquid amounts, and you’ve got yourself a serious day drinking afternoon indeed.


Hemingway knew his spirits well. The sparkling texture of the champagne and it’s mineral qualities makes the intense herbal flavor of absinthe are a great combo. Together they create a cool, silky sip that is a great aperitif before dinner.

Opaque cocktail in coupe

Recipe Variations

The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but we saw numerous recipes using expressed lemon peel. The lemon peel would help balance and brighten the two ingredients even more. Others may include a dash of simple syrup to make it less potent.


You can also try pouring the absinthe on top instead (over the Champagne). Some brands of absinthe will float for a time on top of the Champagne, and makes a neat visual effect.

Opaque cocktail in coupe

It’s up to you, but I can see that Death in the Afternoon would benefit from just a touch of sweetness in it. Try it with and without simple syrup first and see what you like! The dash of simple syrup can take the edge off the absinthe just a little bit. We would use anywhere from .25 oz-.50 oz simple syrup.

Death in the Afternoon cocktail in coupe

What does Death in the Afternoon Taste Like?

Tastes like anise or black licorice.


Who Invented Death in the Afternoon?

Ernest Hemingway claimed that honor himself.

Death in the Afternoon cocktail in coupe

What Sparkling Wine to Use?

There are great options including Prosecco and Cava to use in Death in the Afternoon. Hemingway called for Champagne, but you don’t need to spend the extra money for fancy bubbles if you don’t want to.


You probably will want to use a dry sparkling wine usually labeled Brut. Or, conversely, get something in the $12-25 range that you would enjoy drinking by itself! Or in other lovely cocktails!


Whatever you use, Chill IT! There is no ice going in cocktail so the temp of the wine will be the temperature of your drink. You can even put your champagne flutes in the freezer for a few minutes before making this one, too!


We cover a lot about absinthe in this post, but try to get a cocktail with no food coloring! Neon green is not a great option!

Death in the Afternoon cocktail in coupe

What Absinthe to Choose

When purchasing  absinthe, those neon green ones are artificially colored and flavored and won’t give you the intense herbal flavors that a good absinthe does.


We really love St George Distillery’s Absinthe Verte because of its incredible flavor. Consider absinthe an investment in your cocktail making, as it will be on your bar cart for a long time to come. (Most likely, unless you drink 5 of these a day!)


Remember, absinthe is more nuanced, it’s not like eating a handful of black jelly beans, but it kinda is.


Good luck if you try this one, and let us know what you think! A Strawberry Mimosa is another great champagne cocktail, too!




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Like this recipe? Try these below, too!

Light yellow cocktail in tall glass with crushed ice, mint garnish and mint in blue vaseAbsinthe Frappe


Blueberry Smash


Other Absinthe Cocktails

Death in the Afternoon cocktail in coupe
Yield: 1

Death in the Afternoon Cocktail Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Death in the Afternoon Cocktail was said to be created by Ernest Hemingway himself.


  • 1.50 ounces absinthe
  • 4.50 ounces champagne, chilled


  1. Combine both ingredients in a coupe.
  2. Cheers!


This is a boozy drink, as well as super strong with the flavor of black licorice.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 188Carbohydrates: 1.3g

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