Recipe: Death in the Afternoon from Around the World in 80 Cocktails »

A drink from Spain invented by Ernest Hemingway

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Death in the Afternoon, <i>Around the World in 80 Cocktails</i>

Death in the Afternoon, Around the World in 80 Cocktails

<i>Around the World in 80 Cocktails</i> by Chad Parkhill
<i>Around the World in 80 Cocktails</i> Author Chad Parkhill


Pack your shakers, muddlers and vintage luggage, we're off Around the World in 80 Cocktails. This colourful book takes you across the globe, drink by drink and story by story. And speaking of stories, this recipe with a foreboding name is from Pamplona, Spain where it was invented by Ernest Hemingway himself.

When a young Ernest Hemingway first came to Pamplona, Spain in 1923, it was a charming but little-known backwater. Yet Pamplona’s bullfighting festival, San Fermin, sparked a love affair between Hemingway and the town that powered two of his literary masterpieces: The Sun Also Rises and a nonfiction ode to bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon.

These books would help turn Pamplona into the tourism powerhouse it is today. As anyone who knows anything about Hemingway can tell you, the man liked a drink or two, and his creative talents extended to cocktail making – even if the resulting drinks were long on booze and short on balance.

Hemingway’s personal take on Constantino Ribalaigua Vert’s Daiquiri Number Four, with twice the rum and no sugar, lives on in contemporary bars as the Hemingway Daiquiri or PapaDoble.

He also invented Death in the Afternoon, a drink of legendary potency namedafter his own book. Hemingway’s version, from the 1935 collection of drinks recipes by famous writers,So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon, calls for one jigger (45 ml) of absinthe, topped with enough champagne to attain ‘the proper opalescent milkiness’.

This doesn’t sound so fearsome, until you realise that the absinthe Hemingway calls for could be up to 75 per cent alcohol by volume. Then comes Hemingway’s wry little kicker at the conclusion of his instructions: ‘Drink three to five of these slowly.’

It’s perhaps unsurprising that, later in life, Hemingway was wracked by alcoholism, but he was also full of hatred for what he felt he had turned Pamplona into. In The Dangerous Summer, Hemingway wrote, ‘I’ve written Pamplona once and for keeps. It is all there as it always was except forty thousand tourists have been added. There were not twenty tourists when I first went there nearly four decades ago.’

Hemingway ended his days a tragic figure, eventually committing suicide in 1961, on the eve of San Fermin. One last, horrible twist to the story: he had two tickets to that year’s festival in his desk drawer.


  • 45 ml absinthe
  • 120 ml sparkling wine
  • lemon peel, to garnish (optional)


Pour absinthe into a chilled coupe glass or champagne flute. Slowly top with sparkling wine.

Baretender's tip

Garnish with a thin twist of lemon peel, or leave as unadorned as Hemingway’s prose style – and drink with an abundance of caution.


This extract and recipe is reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher, Explore Australia/Hardie Grant.

Around the World in 80 Cocktails by Chad Parkhill is published by Explore Australia/Hardie Grant (Melb,Vic; August 2017; Hb; 192pp) and retails for A$29.99 in good bookshops. Available from 1 August 2017.

Read more about Around the World in 80 Cocktails here »

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August 08th, 2017
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