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Name Your Deathbed Drink

The concept of the "deathbed" drink—that hypothetical glass with which we toast our own mortality—has been around for centuries. Here, a group of industry experts answer the question: "How would you close out your last day on earth?"

Death Bed Drinks

Cost and consequence notwithstanding, what would your final drink be?

Believe it or not, it’s a question that’s garnered an array of responses from luminary figures throughout history. On his deathbed in 1821, while in exile, Napoleon Bonaparte famously refused any food or drink save for a glass of Vin de Constance; and as her last utterance in 1968, actress Tallulah Bankhead reputedly requested, simply, “Codeine, bourbon.”

Today, as we inch closer to what some have dubbed “the end of humanity,” PUNCH poses the age-old question to industry experts: What’s your deathbed drink?

Toby Cecchini | Owner, The Long Island Bar

In lieu of a last meal, I might have a simple Daiquiri, a dry Negroni and a Plymouth Martini with a twist, followed perhaps by a wee, sere dram of malt, like the Hakushu 12 or the Balvenie 12 Single Barrel, with my co-conspirators before being fusilladed for treachery to my country following our failed attempt to, uh, subvert the course of the presidency. Oh what the heck, maybe I’d just have a bit of Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires Brut Champagne and a going away Cognac as well, the Delamain Vesper would do fine; it’s not like I’d need to worry about a hangover.

Ezra Star | General Manager, Drink

If it were my last day on earth, I would be shooting oysters while drinking Calvados Mojitos naked on a beach with Scarlett Johansson in front of a live performance by the London Symphony Orchestra.

David Wondrich | Author, Imbibe

For my last drink, I would like to have a Sidecar with my old friend “gaz regan [sic]” at Harry’s New York Bar, Paris. It would have to be afternoon and I’d want to sit at the corner of the bar near the front window.

Besha Rodell | Restaurant Critic, LA Weekly

I’m afraid, if I’m honest, my answer would be pretty cliché, which is that I’d want to drink Champagne to say goodbye to this life, not only for its celebratory nature, but also because it is consistently my favorite thing to drink—and has been since I was seven years old. What kind? That’s harder… maybe something from Emmanuel Brochet, or a vintage grower Champagne. I’d want to drink it in bed, with my husband, with a wide open window overlooking an ocean.

Robert Simonson | Cocktail Writer, The New York Times

An Old-Fashioned. Probably a double. An Old-Fashioned has the advantage of being a sipping drink, thus prolonging the inevitable. As for place, either my home or a bar where no one knows me. It is my deathbed drink, after all, and I expect I’ll be more thoughtful than chatty.

Eben Freeman | Beverage Director, AvroKO

There are few luxury items I think are worth the expense—however, aged Cognac and Champagne are two notable exceptions. If I had all the money in the world, I would have a cellar full of the oldest and best of both. Most people consider Champers celebratory and Cognac contemplative, so I guess it would depend how I was feeling about my impending doom.

Amanda Smeltz | Sommelier, Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud

I hope to get to an old age where I will be either in a bed in my home or, if need be, a hospital or old folks’ dorm-type deal, and I hope that my hands are still pliant enough that they can grip the stem of a proper glass (let’s face it, a Zalto feels like a crystal star fart, and I want that in my crony old hand), and I want it to be a really good glass of Champagne (probably made by Marie-Noëlle Ledru, or Jérôme Prévost as a close second), and I want it with some age on it, say ten or 15 years. And I probably don’t want just one glass on my deathbed—I want the whole bottle, or two, and I want the second bottle to be had by my loved ones who stand in the room drinking with me because who cares about Champagne if someone you like isn’t there drinking it with you? And if I can’t have it with potato chips and sour cream, I don’t want it.

Jeff Gordinier | Food & Drink Editor, Esquire

I would ask for a glass of Oban single malt so that I could remember one of the happiest weeks in my life—a time in 2011 when I traveled all the way to Scotland to visit Luing, an island in the Hebrides, simply because I was haunted by a Don Paterson poem about the place. A bottle of Oban accompanied me on that trip, and I have to imagine that I would want to revisit the memory. Ideally I’d be dying on the isle of Luing, surrounded by loved ones and listening to Neil Young’s “Helpless,” but we can’t ask for everything.

Ashley Santoro | Wine Director, The Standard East Village

I’d set up my deathbed at the bar at Casa Manteca in Cadiz, Spain. Just clear a few stools and squeeze me in there. My request is simple: No fewer than four bottles of fino and manzanilla (Equipo Navazos La Bota No. 20 Manzanilla Pasada, Bodegas Tradicion Fino Tradicion, Emilio Hidalgo Fino La Panesa are most certainly in the mix here) alongside an entire leg of jamon iberico. I will not die until the leg is gone, so god help whoever is doing my autopsy.

Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.