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The Corpse Reviver was at one time an entire family of drinks. Corpse Reviver, or just Reviver, sometimes was the name given to drinks designed to be the “hair of the dog that bit you,” meaning a drink to get you through that rough Sunday (or Tuesday, no judgment) morning. The first recipe of this name came into print in 1895 in a book called Drinks of All Kinds and by the time Prohibition began, there were four to eight different drinks with the same name. Harry Craddock published two versions of the drink in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. Version #2 is the one and only to truly stand the test of time.

 The Corpse Reviver #2 recipe in The Savoy calls for equal parts gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, and lemon juice, with just a dash of absinthe. In his book, Craddock warns “four of these taken in swift succession will un-revive the corpse again.” For a nice garnish de-stem a maraschino cherry an drop it in the bottom of the glass.

Some time ago, a friend and patron of mine turned me on to this recipe, and I was amazed at what a delicate and balanced cocktail it was. Over the years I made him several but never had the notion to order one for myself; until one Saturday afternoon when my lady and I stopped into the Town Talk Diner and had the bartender, Chad Larson, pour us a few cocktails.

Now, I am not much of a day drinker. I detest almost all bloody Marys, and I don’t have much of an appetite for beer before the happy hour. But when in the rare air of a great cocktail bar, open during the day, I might be persuaded to have one adult beverage with my meal.

I looked over the list of libations and was having trouble deciding on the perfect accomplice to my delicious food. I was happy to see Chad working, as I had met him previously and had faith in his ability to mix a tasty beverage. I asked him what he would have if he were on my side of the bar, and he immediately answered: Corpse Reviver #2.

Finally getting to have more than a mere straw full of this drink really opened my eyes to what a balancing act these ingredients were pulling off. The flavor of the gin is muted enough for someone afraid of “pine needles” to enjoy, but enough for someone who loves gin to still recognize the distinct flavor. I recommend this drink to vodka drinkers hesitant to make that step into the world of gin drinks. These days you can find Chad running the bar at the Lowertown Barrio in St. Paul. Belly up to his bar if you’re in need of revival.
Lowertown Barrio’s Corpse Reviver #2 by Chad Larson:

Corpse Reviver # 3

Ingredients

  • ¾ oz brandy or Cognac
  • ¾ oz Fernet Branca (herbal liqueur digestif)
  • 1 oz creme de menthe
  • dash of Xocolatl (chocolate) Molé Bitters

How-to

  1. Add brandy, Fernet Branca, creme de menthe and chocolate bitters to a tall glass
  2. Fill with ice and stir well to mix
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve

 

Summary:

This Corpse Reviver is very different from No. 2 (see related recipe). It is not a relative of the sidecar or daisy, and does not call for lemon juice or orange liqueur. Rather, this is a boozy drink calling for two brandies and sweet vermouth.

For the main brandy, use a either a VSOP cognac or the good-value German brandy Asbach Uralt. For the apple brandy, I recommend either Calvados or Laird’s Bonded Straight Apple Brandy (100-proof).

To be perfectly honest, it’s not clear what makes this a morning eye-opener. But if it was, I cannot imagine what the workday was like in, say, 1910.

 The Corpse Reviver #1

Ingredients:

  • Ice
  • 1 1/2 ounces brandy, preferably Cognac
  • 3/4 ounce apple brandy
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
 Directions:

Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add the brandy (Cognac), apple brandy and sweet vermouth. Stir vigorously, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist.