Death in the Afternoon Cocktail Recipe

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Death in the Afternoon Nutrition Facts






Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 7, 2024


Death in the Afternoon, also known as Hemingway Champagne, is a cocktail created by the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway. The cocktail was first published in a 1935 collection of celebrity recipes called 'So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon'. Hemingway was known for his love of alcohol and this cocktail is a testament to his adventurous spirit. The drink is named after his non-fiction book 'Death in the Afternoon' which is about Spanish bullfighting. The cocktail is popular among literary enthusiasts and those who enjoy a strong, unique drink.

How Death in the Afternoon Tastes?

Death in the Afternoon has a complex taste profile, combining the herbal and anise flavors of absinthe with the crisp, dry, and slightly sweet taste of champagne. The cocktail is strong, with a bold, aromatic presence and a smooth, lingering finish.

Interesting facts about Death in the Afternoon

  • Ernest Hemingway was known to consume multiple Death in the Afternoon cocktails in a single sitting, showcasing his love for the drink.
  • The original recipe called for a jigger of absinthe, which is a large amount, but modern recipes typically use a smaller quantity to make the drink more approachable.
  • Death in the Afternoon is sometimes served with a sugar cube to balance the bitterness of the absinthe.



  • Why 1 oz?: It's about balance. Too much absinthe and you're kissing the Green Fairy goodbye as you pass out under the table. Too little, and the champagne bulldozes over its complex flavors.
  • Flavor: Absinthe brings an herbal, aniseed punch—think licorice with a kick. Without it, the cocktail loses its essence and becomes a sad flute of champagne.
  • Alternative: Pastis could step in, but it's like asking your teetotaler aunt to do a keg stand—just not the same.

Alex Green


  • Why 4 oz?: We're looking for a party, not a riot. This amount allows for a playful fizz to dance with the absinthe without crashing the soirée.
  • Flavor: Adds elegance and effervescence. Without champagne, you're left with a lonely absinthe, and no one wants to drink to a party of one.
  • Alternative: Prosecco can substitute in a pinch, but it's like replacing Sinatra with a Sinatra impersonator—not quite as smooth.

Mary Mitkina


  • Use: It chills our glass, ensuring the absinthe and champagne don't get a warm reception.
  • Flavor impact: None directly—it's like the bouncer at the club, unnoticed but essential. Without chilling, the cocktail's flavors would feel as flat as a soda left out overnight.
  • No real alternatives here. It's ice or bust.

Emma Rose

Recipe. How to make Death in the Afternoon Drink

  1. Fill a champagne flute with ice to chill the glass.
  2. Pour 1 oz of absinthe into the chilled glass.
  3. Top with 4 oz of chilled champagne, allowing it to mix with the absinthe.
  4. Gently stir the cocktail to combine the ingredients.
  5. Optional: Add a sugar cube to balance the bitterness.
  6. Enjoy your Death in the Afternoon!

Pro Tips

  • Chill the glass before pouring the ingredients to keep the cocktail cold longer.
  • Use quality absinthe for a smoother, more flavorful drink.
  • Add a sugar cube to balance the bitterness of the absinthe, but it's optional.

Perfect Pairings


  • Oysters: The brininess of the oysters complements the aniseed notes of absinthe.
  • Smoked Salmon: The fatty richness of smoked salmon balances the sharpness of the cocktail.
  • Almonds: Nutty flavors pair well with the herbal characteristics of absinthe.


  • Still Water: To cleanse the palate between sips, it's best to stick with something neutral like still water.
  • No other drinks recommended: The complexity and strength of Death in the Afternoon make it a standalone drink;

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What you could change in Death in the Afternoon

  • Pernod or Anisette can be used as a substitute for absinthe.
  • If you don't have champagne, a dry sparkling wine can be used instead.

Explore all drinks starting with D here

And of course - twists🍹

Green Morning

  • Ingredients: 1 oz green apple absinthe, 4 oz prosecco, mint leaves
  • Recipe: Chill glass with ice, pour in green apple absinthe, top with prosecco, garnish with mint leaves.
  • Taste: A fruity twist on the classic, with a refreshing minty backdrop. It’s like Death in the Afternoon decided to dress up in spring clothes.

Midnight in Paris

  • Ingredients: 1 oz Black licorice absinthe, 4 oz brut champagne, edible gold flakes
  • Recipe: Chill glass with ice, add black licorice absinthe, top with brut champagne, sprinkle gold flakes on top.
  • Taste: This twist is more about sophistication. It's as if Hemingway found a treasure chest, and the key is this cocktail.

The Van Gogh

  • Ingredients: 0.5 oz absinthe, 0.5 oz elderflower liqueur, 4 oz prosecco, lemon twist
  • Recipe: Chill glass with ice, combine absinthe and elderflower liqueur, top with prosecco, garnish with a lemon twist.
  • Taste: It’s floral, slightly sweeter, and with a citrus zing. This cocktail doesn’t just dance on the tongue; it paints flavor with every sip.

In case you forgot basics how to make Death in the Afternoon

Insert the spoon into the glass until it touches the bottom. Keep the back of the spoon against the inside wall of the glass, and stir in a smooth, circular motion. The goal is to swirl the ice and ingredients together without churning or splashing.

Learn everything on how to stir

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Frequently Asked Questions on Death in the Afternoon

What is the best time to enjoy 'Death in the Afternoon' cocktail?

While the cocktail can be enjoyed at any time, it is traditionally served during brunch or in the early afternoon, which aligns with its name.

Can I drink 'Death in the Afternoon' if I don't like absinthe?

While absinthe is a key component of the recipe, the amount can be adjusted to suit your personal preference. Keep in mind that it would slightly alter the original taste profile.

Why is it called 'Death in the Afternoon'?

Ernest Hemingway named it after his non-fiction book of the same name. The book is about the dangerous and fatal sport of bullfighting, symbolizing the strong and potent nature of this cocktail.

Would 'Death in the Afternoon' taste the same with substitutions?

Using Pernod or Anisette instead of absinthe, or a dry sparkling wine instead of champagne could slightly alter the taste. However, the drink would still be enjoyable.

Is this cocktail suitable for all types of social gatherings?

Due to its strong and unique taste, 'Death in the Afternoon' might not suit everyone's palate. Therefore, it might not be the best choice for large gatherings with diverse taste preferences.

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