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Drink of the Week: Corpse Reviver #2

We are already a full week into October, and this being the second scariest month of the year (beware of Income Tax April), it seemed fitting that I feature cocktails that would work nicely at a Halloween party. Over the course of the next four weeks I'll cover my favorite ghoulish classics as we work our way toward the end of the month. Today, I want to show you a cocktail that deserves to be on your list of favorites all year long. Although the name may have you running for the hills, this drink may surprise you with its simple recipe and delicious flavor. The Corpse Reviver #2 is our first Halloween Drink of the Week.

It may sound like a potion that can resurrect the dead, but in this case the Reviver is actually a class of cocktails usually considered "morning-after" refreshments. Nothing helps a corpse recover from a wild night of partying than another cocktail, right? It's not that crazy to admit that some cocktails have historically been used as cures for hangovers. The Corpse Reviver #2 first appeared in print back in 1930 in Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book. Of course, the best example of this kind of beverage may be the Bloody Mary which can sometimes be made into a full breakfast. But in our case, bright and refreshing flavors are here to help get you going while the alcohol numbs the pain. Actually, I don't want to suggest that this or any other cocktail has real medicinal or morning nutritional value. The truth is, the Corpse Reviver #2 is great any time of the day!

The idea that this was once a morning-after cocktail may not be as interesting as the fact that it's number two in what was obviously a line of them. There was indeed a Corpse Reviver #1, and also a #3, but ours has enjoyed a lot more popularity, and it's by far the tastiest. This drink is experiencing a revival of its own, appearing on classic cocktail menus all over the world again. And rightly so—it's delicious, with a prominent lemon emphasis. But don't take my word for it:

Corpse Reviver #2
1 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz lemon juice
1 dash absinthe

Add ingredients to a shaker, fill with ice and shake to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

It's easy to remember because it has four ingredients in equal proportions. Only the absinthe is unusual here, but even at just a small dash, this too is pretty hard to forget. It doesn't take much absinthe to overpower this recipe, so make sure you pour as little as you can from the bottle, or to be safe, dash it into your bar spoon first. I actually have two ounces of absinthe in a dropper bottle that I use for these occasions or when I rinse a glass to make the Sazerac.

The gin you choose will probably affect the overall flavor, but you can get away with just about anything you like. And if you don't like gin, I am saying that it doesn't really matter because this drink doesn't taste like gin. Believe me. This is another one of those classics where gin does almost magical things to elevate the other flavors. As for the triple sec, Cointreau is what you want.

You may recall that we used Lillet way back at the beginning of our Drink of the Week adventure in the 20th Century cocktail. It's also a key ingredient in the Vesper. If you don't have a bottle of Lillet in your refrigerator, I suppose I will just have to keep giving you reasons to buy some. It's not expensive, and it really is nice to have around. Finally, fresh squeezed lemon juice balances the sweet.

The garnish is an important part of any cocktail recipe. Some drinks have options and can go with one item or another, but here, you want a nice, wide piece of orange peel. Snap the zest to send oils spraying over the surface of the drink. Rub it around the rim of the glass, and please drop it in with the peel side up, not the ugly white pith. It's Halloween, and everyone wants to see that splash of orange!

8 comments to Drink of the Week: Corpse Reviver #2

  • butters

    Randy, have you tried this with cocchi americano? I started using the cocchi in place of the lillet and really like it a lot! Keep up the great posts.

    • Not yet. I have been recommending cocchi based on some testimonials I read a while back and one of the comments was how it transforms this drink. I'd really like to try it but I have yet to see it in a shop. I guess with everything else on my list, I haven't gone out if my way to order it online. When the Lillet is gone though, it will be time to track it down!

      How's the swizzle stick working?

  • Ann Ruud

    I was at Meritage just last night and saw the guys "rinse" the glass with Absinthe in a unique way. They use a small glass spray bottle to spray the Absinthe over the ice before pouring the cocktail. I thought of you.

  • That's a good technique. I have also seen Johnny Michaels do the same thing at the Lounge at La Belle Vie. They use St George absinthe, and the fine mist quickly evaporates leaving an aromatized "haze" on the glass. I like that they are spraying it on the ice as you describe. Absinthe needs dilution for the botanicals to come out of solution (louche) which is why the room fills with its scent when you drip cold water into it. It's as if they are doing a "mini" absinthe drip for the rinse like you might for a Sazerac with ice. The spray is also a time saver for coating a glass. In the old days, they would pour some into the serving glass, throw the glass into the air with a spin and yell, "Sazerac!" that's another way to rinse the glass I guess.

  • Kristin

    I've been drinking this cocktail for years...one of my favorites! I have to say, though, that Gin brand DOES make a difference! (I use Hendricks). Also, tip to people interested in saving a few bucks...don't skimp on the Cointreau! I tried to save money by using Grand Gala and it was such a mistake.

  • Hendrick's is an excellent choice for this drink. As I mentioned, you can use any gin "you like" but that doesn't necessarily mean any gin will do. I suppose I could have been clearer about that, but I still contend that you don't actually have to like gin to enjoy this drink. Kristin, would you agree? A gin like Hendrick's with all of those wonderful botanicals plus the rose and cucumber is going to do amazing things with the other ingredients resulting in delicious flavors that are not piney. The specific results of this magic are absolutely a result of your spirit selection. I believe I used Plymouth here which is more citrus than juniper forward, but even a bolder choice like Beefeater will provide the magic, in some ways even moreso. It sounds like you also found the the value of Cointreau. It's worth the extra expense. You often hear folks say so, but nothing confirms this better than your own tastes (and regrets). Thanks for commenting!

    • Kristin

      I 100% agree. Gin choice dependent upon how you want to "decorate" the flavor. :-)

      I tried Bombay Sapphire, once (a favorite of mine for its piney characteristics), but this didn't seem to fit well with THIS drink.

      Take care!

      • It's a really good point: gin--even in many classics--isn't a one shoe fits all proposition. Too many consumers try a single product in a spirit category selected by marketing, habit or peer pressure and never experience the flexibility of variety. I ask them, how do you know you don't like gin? They tried it once, by itself, decided they didn't like it. It's like someone reacting negatively to bleu cheese and based on that experience, never trying a cheddar cheeseburger or fondue. There's nothing wrong with bleu cheese, it's just not for everyone or appropriate in every situation. But are you giving up lasagna? No way.

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