Revive Yourself!: The Corpse Reviver

The Corpse Reviver is quite a drink.It varies from the harsh to the sweet, all the while being very potent. It has to be: it’s meant to revive you after a long night of drinking. That’s right. This drink is meant for the morning. Like a Bloody Mary.

But I don’t recommend it for that. Have as part of a cocktail evening instead, and you will enjoy yourself much more.

There are two standard versions of the corpse reviver, and both of my recipes came from my 1948 edition of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. His versions are small, which is probably a good thing. You can find the standard recipes nearly anywhere online such as Oh Gosh!, the Washington Post, the 12 Bottle Bar, or Sloshed, but these generally focus on the Corpse Reviver #2, which is the most famous one.

Since I’m on a quest for cocktails, I figured I had better start with #1. To make a Corpse Reviver #1, combine

  • 1 oz cognac
  • 1/2 oz apple brandy
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth

stir with ice, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. 

It’s actually a well-balanced drink that deserves more attention. The apple brandy (Laird’s Applejack, in my case) goes perfectly with the other parts, and no one flavor overpowers everything else. It’s powerful, like a Sidecar or Manhattan, so it’s meant to be enjoyed slowly, and I can’t imagine trying to drink one in the morning, like Craddock recommends. But we have to remember that the Julep came about the same way, as a way for farmers and the like to get their morning strength to work all day. This one would do it, too.

I have to admit, though, that I really just wanted to drink a Corpse Reviver #2 after drinking this #1.

The Corpse Reviver #2 is a very different drink, which makes me think that these drinks are really just a category for Craddock, not variations on a single drink. The #2 is made by combining

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 3 dashes of absinthe-type liquor like Pastis or Pernod (I use Herbsaint.)

stir with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

As you can see from the ingredients, there are no similarities between the #2 and #1. The #2 is more like a sour, with the floral sweetness of the Lillet working nicely with the lemon and orange of the triple sec. The anise liquor provides a licorice nose that complements everything. The balance of this drink appears so delicate because it seems so sweet yet powerful, like a train trying to kiss you lightly on the cheek.

Wait, did I just say that?

And then there is the Corpse Reviver #69, created by David Alan, the Tipsy Texan. You can also find it in Edible Austin as the Corpse Reviver 2011. This one is similar to the Corpse Reviver #2 except that it makes the absinthe a prominent ingredient and substitutes St. Germain as the sweet flowery liqueur. The version I had at the Esquire in San Antonio was made with Tennyson Absinthe, which was the 69th absinthe legalized in the United States that contributed the #69 part of the name, but the Edible Austin version shows that it can be made with any absinthe. I have even tried it with both Herbsaint and Picard. They all work well.

This version is made by combining

  • 3/4 oz absinthe
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain
  • 3/4 oz triple sec
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice

 Shake those ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. As you can see, it combines the ideas of the Corpse Reviver #2: anise, floral notes, sweetness, and lemon, but it makes the floral and the anise stand out. The St. Germain works so well with the absinthe that they nearly blend together into a single taste. This drink is great for everyone, even those that don’t like anise or absinthe. The absinthe is cut so much by the sweetness that it loses much of its licorice taste. Heck, even my wife drinks this one, and she hates absinthe. I mean hates it. Go figure.

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