Death in the Afternoon

Hemingway's favorite way to kill an afternoon.

The title of Hemingway’s 1932 novel Death in the Afternoon is both a direct reference to the gruesome finale of Spanish bullfights, and a more oblique one about his mediations on mortality. The fact that he ascribed the same title to a cocktail made of a shot of absinthe topped with Champagne, which he submitted to a celebrity recipe book in 1935, is something to ponder. The original formula for absinthe was certainly a more powerful concoction, but the more likely explanation: In his recipe instructions he prescribed drinking three to five of these at a time.


Serving: 1

  • 1/4 - 1/2 ounce absinthe
  • sparkling wine (dry)
  • 1 dash simple syrup, optional (1:1, sugar:water)

  1. Add absinthe and and simple syrup (if using) to a flute.
  2. Slowly top with chilled, sparkling wine.
Editor's Note

A good, dry sparkling wine or Champagne works well here. Because absinthe has a very particular flavor profile, some may prefer more or less. Though the original recipe calls for a prodigious one-and-a-half ounces of absinthe, we prefer to remain standing after one cocktail. Contemporary versions, including ours, call for a lighter pour.