Death in the Afternoon

August 6, 2010 (Day 188) — Death in the Afternoon

I found this (relatively) unknown classic on Esquire’s excellent Website. I was fascinated. Hemingway is kind of a hero to the drunken masses.

I mean, holy shit! Look at him!

Here’s what Esquire had to say about the history of Death in the Afternoon:

There’s a bit near the beginning of Virgil’s Georgics (in which the poet explains, at length, the art of farming; weird, but no weirder than, say, David Foster Wallace) where a peasant, busting sod on an old battlefield, turns up the bones of some of the slaughtered — and they’re huge; almost a different species. That’s how we feel contemplating Hemingway’s original instructions for this wicked potion (he claims to have cooked it up with some Brits after a spot of nautical unpleasantness): “Pour 1 jigger of absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” The liver that man must’ve had!

Unfortunately, absinthe’s still illegal here. But if you’re in Europe this summer and your better half has just left you, perhaps citing your persistent sniggering at her (or his) ostentatious mastery of the local parley-voo, you might want to embark on a course of these. You can get real absinthe there — and, seeing as how the authentic wormwood-powered stuff has a tendency to taste like Raid, the champagne can only help it. Just make sure you leave your documents and most of your money in the hotel safe before you commence treatment.

Thankfully, absinthe IS legal here in the good ol’ US of A these days, so you can make it how the drunken galoot pictured above originally intended. And, as someone who both enjoys and experience with absinthe, I can tell you without drinking this beast that “Death in the Afternoon,” is a pretty fitting title. I happen to have both absinthe and some Brut on hand. We’re heading out for some culture tonight (cabaret), so why not get prepared with a doozy of a cocktail?

Death in the Afternoon

1 1/2 ounces absinthe

4 ounces Brut champagne

Pour your absinthe into a chilled champagne flute, then top with champagne. If you’ve done it right, like Hemingway said, you will have “the proper opalescent milkiness.”

There’s a reason this is called “Death in the Afternoon,” because it will flat out kill you. Not literally, but man this is one tasty, but angry drink. It has a strong black licorice flavor (from the absinthe), but the sweetness of the absinthe is tempered by the dryer champagne. I really liked it, but there’s no way in hell I could ever drink more than one of these at a time.

If you like absinthe, you’ll love this drink. But be careful if you decide you want to have several at a time. It’s just a bit too brutal.


– Mark

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