Death in The Afternoon Cromulent inherited a bottle of absinthe as leftovers from a Pernod sponsored party, and asked me if I knew of any absinthe cocktails. And I said, "yes, yes I do."
I have some experience with absinthe. I wouldn't say I'm an experienced absinthe drinker, but I've had a number of absinthe experiences, nonetheless. I've tried drinking it straight. I bought an absinthe spoon in Prague, and tried drinking it the Bohemian way (dip the sugar in absinthe, light it on fire, dump the sugar into the absinthe to light it all on fire, and then put it out with a shot of water. Then, drink). I even blew fireballs with absinthe, as you can see in the following photo.
I know what you're thinking. I really shouldn't have been working with fire with that beard. Luckily, that picture captures a successful fireball. A separate instance from that same evening (drunken in Avignon, six bottles of wine in, split amongst five people, we've moved on to the absinthe) involved my aim being a little off, hitting my hand, sparking up to the zippo, and then, well, my thought process goes
"...absinthe flame is really pretty...
...on my hand...
...there is flame on my hand...
...someone put fire on my hand!!!
I have not been very responsible on absinthe. One of the earliest things I wrote here was about my early days with absinthe. I recommend reading through it at some point.
But the format I've most had absinthe in is in a cocktail; I don't remember where I learned it from, but I learned it as "The Hemingway." It's simply a mixture of absinthe and champagne. The first time I had it, I think I mixed it too strong. I think I probably did about half an half. It was a miserable drink that none of us enjoyed, but it was the only drink we had (absinthe and champagne; most people wound up just drinking champagne). It sparked a comment from me that I've been repeating ever since, because I thought it was one of the wittiest things I'd ever come up with.
"I think I know why it's called the Hemingway; he shot himself in the mouth, didn't he?"
I tried it a subsequent time, wanting to repeat my little witticism, and it came out just as bad.
However, at exGiff''s birthday party three years ago, we tried again. Mostly, I think I proposed it as a cocktail because we had both champagne and absinthe, and we were running out of creme de cassis. I also wanted people to marvel over how funny the Hemingway joke was again. This time we got it right. It wound up being a surprise hit of the party. The key is to not put too much absinthe in, which is, I have to say, kind of obvious but which I constantly did wrong. Absinthe is so much more powerful than any other alcohol I've mixed with, so I kept treating it like an 80 proof liquor rather than a 120 proof one.
It's a pretty cocktail.
Apparently, I've gotten the name wrong. Hemingway did create this cocktail, actually. He submitted it to a humorous book of drink recipes created by authors called So Red The Nose (or, Breath in the Afternoon). His recipe is: "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."
If you have to drink three to five of them, for God's sake, definitely do it slowly.
He continues: "This was arrived at by the author and three officers of the H.M.S. Danae after having spent seven hours overboard trying to get Capt. Bra Saunders' fishing boat off a bank where she had gone with us in a N.W. gale."
But instead, he called it a "Death In the Afternoon." Which is probably even funnier than my Hemingway witticism. Damn you Hemingway!
This book sounds truly awesome, and if you have $100 or so and want to buy me a present, you can pick one up from an antiquarian booksellar or Amazon.com. So Red The Nose (or, Breath in the Afternoon) also features Erskine Caldwell, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Theodore Dreiser, and this recipe, by H.L. Davis. It might in fact be my favorite.
Honey In The Horn
High Proof Rum (at least 10 years old)
(About 2 Beer Steins)
Dark Strained Honey (the thin, runny kind)
(A Tin Dipperful, and a Little Over)
Fresh Huckleberries (crushed to a pulp)
(A Tin Dipperful)
Mountain Ash Berries (crushed)
(2 Tablespoons; be careful with 'em boys)
Best Black Gunpowder - To Taste
"Mix (at room temperature) and stir savagely until it is no longer streaky in color. Each drink should be served with a toothpick impaling a dead bumblebee, a dead yellow jacket and a dead wasp. These are supposed to be eaten first to give the revelers a notion of what lies in store for them."