October 30, 2015

Contraband Cocktail Hour:
Death in the Afternoon


Papa Hem

Papa Hem fixes a drink.

A quarter of a century ago, at a flea market in Florida, Paul Dickson happened upon the Prohibition Era’s little black book—a six-ring binder filled with cocktail recipes dating to a period when even books on mixing drinks were seen as violations of the spirit (and, of course, the Eighteenth Amendment).

From this binder, and considerable research, Dickson concocted Contraband Cocktails—a guide to the history, famous characters, language, and drink recipes that emerged in the fourteen years America was dry.

So, here’s to Friday. May we suggest a cocktail?


  1. Pour 1 jigger of Absinthe into a Champagne Glass.
  2. Add Iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness.
  3. Drink 3 to 5 of these slowly.


Ernest Hemingway’s original concoction, about which he explained:

“This was arrived at by the author and three officers of 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.”


Sterling North’s So Red the Nose says of Hemingway:

“It takes a man with hair on his chest to drink five absinthe and champagne cocktails and still handle the English language in the Hemingway fashion. But Ernest has proved his valor, not alone in his cups. Captain of the swimming team at Oak Park High School—first American to be wounded on the Italian front during the World War (with 227 individual wounds to his credit)—tossed by a bull in the streets of Pamplona while rescuing his friend Donald Ogden Stewart—deep-sea fisherman—big game hunter—and one of the first citizens of Key West. Hemingway could hold his absinthe like a postwar novelist.”


Stay tuned till next week for a bit of cocktail trivia, and a chance to win a free copy of the book.