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In the early 20th century there was an entire range of Corpse Reviver cocktails, all quite different and numbered. Of these, the Corpse Reviver Number 2 is perhaps the most popular, and most well known, but what’s with the name?
Corpse Reviver cocktails are intended as hangover cures. As mentioned in the Savoy Cocktail Book, “Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.” Read that carefully. While we accept that Corpse Revivers are treatments for the morning after, it’s curious how Harry Craddock, the Savoy book’s author, suggests 4 of them to “unrevive” the corpse. Hmmm. Perhaps it’s intent is restoring the haze that caused hangover in the first place? Four of them, in modern quantities may just do that, but Craddock wasn’t recommending overwhelming volume. As with most of the items in the Savoy book, the cocktails of the time were much smaller than they are today, and apparently were for a while. Kingsley Amis laments the demure cocktail in his collection of essays spanning his entire career, Everyday Drinking, and if there’s a better, wittier, more enjoyable book on the topic, we’ve yet to find it.
Although Amis wrote his essays in the middle of the 20th century, he was correct about the volume of cocktails past. The Savoy book specifies measurements of 1/4 wine glass for the ingredients of this equal parts cocktail. A wine glass is 2 ounces, which means a Corpse Reviver Number 2, as made by Craddock, is a little over 2 ounces, at most 3, accounting for dilution. That’s roughly two thirds the volume of a modern Corpse Reviver Number 2. If we omit the dilution, Craddock offers 2 ounces of liquid 4 times for a total of 8 ounces. We offer 3 ounces of liquid, for a total, when following Craddock’s advice and taking 4 in quick succession, of 12 ounces. It adds up, and for a cocktail meant for the morning, it just may be enough, in modern quantities, to “unrevive the corpse.”
We don’t recommend cocktails for breakfast, but Craddock definitely did. His notes for the Corpse Reviver Number 1 clearly state it shouldn’t be consumed past 11 a.m. Regardless, if that’s how you roll, we think the Corpse Reviver Number 2 is an excellent choice, but please do consider using Craddock’s measurements, especially if it’s a work day.
The Corpse Reviver Number 2, no matter when you enjoy it, is a variation of a Sidecar. The Sidecar, of course, is a brandy cocktail, but the Corpse Reviver Number 2 follows the same pattern of Cointreau and lemon mixed with a base spirit. Here the base spirit is gin, and we recommend Aria Gin, a dry gin for what we feel should be a dry cocktail. In equal parts, the Cointreau makes it sweet enough, and, although absent in a Sidecar, vermouth also brings a bit of sweet. Originally, the Corpse Reviver Number 2 would have had Kina Lillet, but it’s not made anymore. Modern interpretations often use the very reasonable substitute, Cocchi Americano, but we favor the locally made Interobang White Vermouth no. 73. Equal parts of all of these make a superb cocktail, but what makes the Corpse Reviver Number 2 stand apart is absinthe. Just a touch of our favorite, Haint Absinthe, makes this one of the most respectable classic cocktails of them all. A dash of absinthe can take most cocktails to the next level, but it’s a whole new level with the Corpse Reviver Number 2. We do very much recommend enjoying this drink at any time of the day, and you really don’t need a hangover to sip one. It’s just a really good and nicely dry sour, and if you’re hungover, it’s apparently also a really good tonic, so don’t let the weird name scare you. Unrevive yourself, then revive with a Corpse Reviver Number 2, or revive yourself and unrevive with a Corpse Reviver Number 2 or, when you head hurts from trying to figure it out, just have another one and forget it.
3/4 oz Aria Gin
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Interrobang White Vermouth no. 73
3/4 oz Lemon juice
1 dash Haint Absinthe
Wash a coupe or cocktail glass with absinthe by pouring a bit of it in the glass, swirling it to coat the inside, and pour out the rest. (it’s absinthe, so don’t waste it...pour it out, but save it somehow and enjoy it later). Shake the remaining ingredients with ice, and strain into the absinthe washed glass. No garnish.