Death In The Afternoon,
“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.” – Ernest Hemingway (So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon, 1935)
Taking Hemingway’s original instructions and building on them until I found something actually pleasant to drink was the motif for this redux of the Death In The Afternoon cocktail.
In keeping with Simon Difford‘s style of presenting this drink: Place Peychaud’s bitters soaked sugar cube into a Boston Shaker (The diabetic Hemingway avoided sugar in his cocktail recipes). Pour in absinthe and lemon juice. Add ice and shake until well blended. Strain into a flute glass. Top with ice-cold J Brut Rosé. Express oil from a lemon peel on top, and serve.
This drink is boozy! It has dancing notes of anise, citrus, fresh biscuit, ripe fruits and a cavalcade of botanicals on the bouquet. After a bracing first sip it becomes a very refreshing drink. I loved the idea of using a creamy off-dry sparkling Pinot/Chardonnay Rosé with a California Absinthe that uses Chardonnay brandy as its base.
Beyond liking how the above listed ingredients worked together, I like that all the ingredients came from within a confined geography.
This is in keeping with how Ernest Hemingway typically consumed cocktails. He wasn’t loyal to anything beyond ice-cold gin martinis. At Finca La Vigia his Cuban home for over 20 years, he drank the ‘Papa Doble’ (Hemingway Daiquiri). In France, it was the Death In The Afternoon. In his book about Hemingway’s drinking habits, Author Philip Greene stated that Hemingway, “thought globally.. drank locally” (To Have And Have Another, 2012)
Fun Fact: New Orleanian Philip Greene is a modern descendant of Antoine Amédée Peychaud!
Unlike Difford’s Guide, I avoid the monotonous flavor and bizarre crayon color of La Fee Absinthe to make a Death In The Afternoon. There are many fantastic genuine absinthes from France, Switzerland, North America and beyond to choose from.
Typical of North American’s I find the ‘Holy Trinity of Absinthe’ – Fennel, Anise and Wormwood – are flavors that don’t always rest comfortably on my palate.
While I don’t tend to drink anise flavored spirits on their own, they make a beautiful addition to many of my favorite drinks. The Corpse Reviver #2, Remember The Maine, Sazerac and even a good Old Fashioned all benefit greatly from adding a hint of absinthe. You get this from ‘washing‘ the glass before service. An ideal tool to have is an Atomizer, to mist the glass quickly without wasting any excess spirit.
When experimenting with different Absinthe remember that all of them are of very strong proof. The traditional Swiss ABV is 53% and the French is 68%. The St George is 60%. This is why Absinthes tend to sneak up on people and not the mistaken belief that there’s a psychedelic-effect. That misinformation revolves around the chemical Thujone. Absinthe comes from the from the Latin word Absinthium, which was the term for the perennial herb Wormwood. Thujone is found in many plants, including Wormwood. Thujone is actually found in higher concentrations in Vermouth which gets its name from the Germanic ‘Vermut‘, or Wormwood. HerbSaint comes from the term ‘Sacred Herb‘, Creole for (say it with me) Wormwood. Chartreuse uses many thujone containing herbs and like Vermouth is not associated with psycho-active properties.
The alcohol content alone is not the strongest indicator of how strong-tasting the Absinthe will be. I actually find French Abyss Superior Absinthe is very smooth at 148 proof. If you can get your hands on this beautiful product it makes some lovely cocktails.
Be forewarned: if you have as many ‘Death In The Afternoon’ cocktails as Hemingway advised, you may not know where you are when you wake up.