Death in the Afternoon: Hemingway and the Underground Absinthe Movement

Death in the Afternoon: Hemingway and the Underground Absinthe Movement
Photo Courtesy: Key West Trading Co. / @keywesttradingco

In the tapestry of American literature and spirits, few threads are as colorfully intertwined as the legend of Ernest Hemingway and his fascination with absinthe. This potent green spirit, once shrouded in controversy, now finds its legacy revived in the hands of modern distillers and enthusiasts alike. Hemingway, an iconic figure in Key West, Florida, is celebrated not just for his literary genius but also for his love affair with absinthe, a relationship immortalized in the cocktail “Death in the Afternoon.” This narrative invites readers on an exploration of absinthe’s tumultuous history, its connection to Hemingway, and how it continues to inspire and captivate.

Absinthe: A Spirited Journey from Banishment to Rebirth

Absinthe’s journey through history is as complex and layered as its flavor profile. Dubbed “the Green Fairy,” absinthe became the center of moral panic in the early 20th century, leading to its banishment across Europe and the United States. Claims of hallucinogenic effects and detrimental health impacts fueled its prohibition. Yet, the allure of absinthe could not be quelled by legislation alone. Its mystique only grew in the shadows, symbolizing rebellion and the thirst for freedom.

The resurgence of absinthe in the 21st century marks a triumphant return to grace. Craft distillers across the nation have embraced the challenge of reviving authentic absinthe, crafting renditions that honor its storied past while appealing to modern palates. Among these, “Death in the Afternoon” stands out as a homage to Hemingway’s adventurous spirit and the vibrant essence of Key West.

Hemingway and Key West: A Legacy Steeped in Spirit

Ernest Hemingway’s sojourn in Key West during the 1930s is etched into the island’s cultural memory. It was here, among the sunlit beaches and eclectic crowds, that Hemingway found a haven for creativity and solace. His fondness for absinthe, reflected in his literary works and personal predilections, endures as a vibrant thread in the fabric of Key West’s history.

“Death in the Afternoon,” named after Hemingway’s own creation, serves as a liquid tribute to the author’s indomitable spirit. This absinthe encapsulates the essence of Key West’s storied past, inviting drinkers to partake in a sensory journey that transcends the boundaries of time and place.

Unlocking the Essence of Hemingway’s Absinthe

Hemingway’s portrayal of absinthe in his novels offers a glimpse into the author’s personal and philosophical musings on the spirit. In “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” absinthe is depicted as a companion in contemplation, a conduit to deeper insights into the human condition. Hemingway’s experiences in Parisian cafes, where absinthe flowed as freely as conversation, influenced his writings and his worldview, cementing absinthe’s role as a muse for creativity and defiance.

Crafting a Tribute: The Art of “Death in the Afternoon”

The cocktail “Death in the Afternoon” is more than just a drink; it is a celebration of life’s complexities, of triumphs and tribulations. Crafting this cocktail is an invitation to connect with Hemingway’s legacy, to savor the rich tapestry of flavors, and to reflect on the profound connections between spirit and story. Here’s how you can make it:


  • 1 1/2 oz absinthe
  • 3 oz chilled champagne or sparkling wine


  • Pour the absinthe into a champagne flute.
  • Slowly add the chilled champagne or sparkling wine to the glass.
  • Stir gently to combine.
  • Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.
  • Serve and enjoy!

We happen to be partial to Key West Trading Co.’s version of “Death in the Afternoon,” which is available for online purchase anywhere in the US through Cask Cartel or in many fine restaurant and bar locations in the Key West area.

For aficionados of both literature and spirits, raising a glass of absinthe in homage to Hemingway is not just an act of celebration but a nod to a life lived on the edge – a life imbued with passion, creativity, and an unquenchable thirst for the extraordinary.

A Movement Underground: The Resilience of Absinthe

The prohibition of absinthe did little to diminish its spirit. Instead, it sparked an underground movement, a secret fellowship of distillers who kept the tradition alive against the odds. Today, this legacy is embraced by the Key West Trading Co., which stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of absinthe and the unbreakable spirit of those who champion its cause.

For enthusiasts eager to join this vibrant community, Key West Trading Co. offers an opportunity to invest in the future of absinthe through StartEngine. This venture is not just an investment in a spirit but a celebration of history, culture, and the art of distillation.

In conclusion, the journey of absinthe, from its vilification to its vindication, mirrors the complexities of the human spirit. Hemingway’s embrace of absinthe and his legacy in Key West serve as reminders of the enduring power of passion, creativity, and resilience. As we raise our glasses to the green fairy, we toast to the past, present, and future of a spirit that continues to inspire and enchant.

Published by: Holy Minoza


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