This Thanksgiving Your Family Should Die Dreaming

Written By Meg Elison

Meg Elison is a Philip K. Dick and Locus award winning author, as well as a Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Otherwise awards finalist. A prolific short story writer and essayist, Elison has been published in Slate, McSweeney’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fangoria, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley.

Let’s get one thing straight and two things bi: I am not a recipe writer. I’m just a hedonist who likes to get fucked up, and a goth who loves the name of this cocktail.

I’m also not Dominican. I’m not authorized to tell you that my version of this cocktail is in any way authentic, representative, or correct.

I can tell you that it’s delicious and (depending on how you make it) it might ease your holiday woes.

The drink is called morir soñando, in English: die dreaming. I heard it for the first time the way a lot of Americans experience cultures of the Caribbean: I was stepping off a cruise ship. In the streets of Santo Domingo, night was falling and we were splitting up into groups based on one Spanish speaker every five persons. Our ship had set up a little outdoor food fair for us; my group had other plans. We walked deeper into the cobble-stoned evening in search of adventure.

Only March and the bluing night was already warm. People sat outside cafes and walked arm in arm. Everywhere in windows we saw the magic words every tourist longs to see: VISA/Mastercard/ApplePay. We felt welcome and alive.

Welcome indeed, as a fellow in a doorway waved us toward the sound of music. He checked our IDs and brought us into a red-lit room, a band playing in the far end and the close end populated by a bar and an ice cream stand. Patiently I translated for most of our party to order hand-dipped ice cream bars and watched them settle before I walked to the bar.

My Spanish is imperfect, but a combination of my sense of adventure and the kindness of strangers in a hundred countries all over the world has helped me to get my point across. I asked the bartender what the locals were drinking.

“Rum,” she told me, confidently. All us pirates in the Caribbean want rum, don’t we?

I pointed to a cloudy cup of something with an orange floating in it. I thought it might be rumchata or similar.

“Oh that,” she said, winking. “That’s morir soñando.”

My mother tongue is goth and I knew at once what it meant. “May I have one of those, please?”

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    A few friends joined me, ice cream finished or forgotten. We toasted, and we talked about the name.

    “If you were going to die dreaming, what would you like to dream of?” I sipped. The drink tasted like an orange creamsicle licked by blue flame. I was hooked instantly.

    “What, like Freddy Kruger?”

    I scowled. “No, like a romantic dream. Written by Stoker or Coppola rather than Craven.”

    My friends softened. They described dreams of sex and sensual delights. They saw themselves out the door of the night with softness and gentle sunsets of the subconscious. One of them mused that it might be nice to die during a dream of triumph, to feel like you won at last against all the obstacles of your life.

    No obstacle between me and the dream of death, I put my glass down and ordered another. I took a look at the items behind the bar. It seemed to me the drink was made with fresh sweet orange juice, sweetened condensed milk, and either rum or Licor 43 (possibly both.) After three I was floating. I was on the mattresses of god herself, being borne in a palanquin toward an ethereal cemetery. I was being led through the streets of Santo Domingo back to the looming hulk of a ship in the harbor. Stars winked overhead as I stumbled up the gang plank, and then I was gone.

    I remember the ocean rocking me to sleep. I remember the island disappearing on the horizon. I remember waking to the outline of Cuba in the pink-orange light of dawn. I don’t remember closing my tab. Weeks later, recounting my expenses and going through my debits, I could never find the charge.

    I know it’s real. I remember how it tasted. My friends remember the paletas, but I know better.

    Making morir soñando at home, I’ve found that:

                1 part rum

                1 part Licor 43 (the big liquor stores can usually get it, bonus points if you live near a Dominican neighborhood)

                2 parts sweetened condensed milk (or coconut cream/milk mixture, vegans)

                2 parts orange juice


    …is about right. Strong enough to fortify your soul for the moment when you have to call out a family member for being racist, soft enough that even non-drinkers will admit it’s tasty and consent to a little daydream of their own. Make it in a glass for one, make it in a punch bowl for all your cousins. That’s why ratios and not measurements (also I do not do math; it is a straight man’s construct and I shan’t participate).

    Making it at home, people tell me that it tastes like summer and it tastes like Christmas. Thanksgiving doesn’t have a signature cocktail (gtfoh with your cranberry mojito recipe, auntie) but as for me and my house: we will die dreaming.