Corpse Reviver No. 2

This is a truly amazing cocktail, one of the great examples of cocktail alchemy that creates completely new flavors from its component ingredients and produces a drink that makes you want to shout for joy.

Our good friend Dr. Cocktail sings its praises; in fact, it’s the very drink that started him on his world-class journey to cocktailian archaeological expertise. That’s good enough for me, and so it should be for us all.

The name comes from the days when people drank cocktails in the morning (and why not indeed?), and was in a category of “pick-me-ups” meant to be served the morning after the night before. Various drinks called “corpse revivers” dated back to the 19th Century, but cocktail guides appeared to settle on three or four numbered version — some of the other numbered Corpse Revivers involve port, or vermouth and brandy, but I think this one is the best. London’s Savoy Hotel’s legendary head barman Harry Craddock, in his indispensible 1930 tome The Savoy Cocktail Book, notes that “[f]our of these in taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”

There’s so much going on in this drink, which is sophisticated and complex to the point that my first sips of one had me tasting things that weren’t even there (my first guess was that this drink might have had rum in it!), but once you know what’s in it you can taste every ingredient. This is a perfect drink to serve guests who might fear gin, or who might not have experience with classic cocktails of old. In keeping with its name, it’s a concoction that might just help you out a bit … the morning after the night before. Or any other time, really.

Corpse Reviver No. 2, at Arnaud's French 75 Bar, New Orleans

A Corpse Reviver No. 2, as served by Chris Hannah at Arnaud's French 75 Bar, New Orleans

Corpse Reviver No. 2

3/4 ounce gin.
3/4 ounce Cointreau.
3/4 ounce Lillet blanc.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 dash absinthe or Herbsaint.

Combine in a shaker with cracked ice; shake and strain.
Garnish with a stemless cherry.

As I write this, the night before the morning after, my corpse is already feeling rather revived indeed, and I’m not even dead yet.

We also like to use this as a “gateway drink,” especially when converting unsuspecting vodka drinkers to the joys of gin. I know, vodka drinkers, way back in the Olden Days I used to be afraid of gin too. Not anymore. Gin is wonderful. Trust me on this.

As Erik advises, this is also a superb example of a drink in which to swap out Lillet for Cocchi Americano, if you can find it — it’s a chinato, a quinine-bearing, fortified aperitif wine. It’ll be a fair bit more like the original concept of the drink, which used the more bitter and now-unavailable Kina Lillet, which was replaced by the non-bitter and more citrusy Lillet Blanc in 1986.

If you’d like to tinker with proportions, my friend Rick has done a great deal of experimentation with this drink.

If you really want to serve this drink with a flourish, when presenting them to your guests on a silver tray, do your best impression of Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (“That’s FRONK-en-steen.”) and shriek, “LIFE! GIVE MY CREATION … LIIIIIFE!”

Or not.

7 Responses to “Corpse Reviver No. 2”

  1. Kort said:

    Sep 03, 10 at 7:49 am

    I just purchases some absinthe so will be giving this one a shot, thanks! :)

  2. Periodista Tales: Ted Haigh—Birth of a Pseudonym « Devin Hahn Films said:

    Mar 24, 11 at 8:21 pm

    [...] able to really understand what chemists those bartenders were—even though we’re talking about a recipe of mostly equal parts—because I could taste each individual ingredient, and yet the whole was [...]

  3. Cocktails, Time Machines, and The Velvet Tango Room « sushi & cocktails said:

    Jun 23, 11 at 7:39 am

    [...] Corpse Reviver No. II opened with strong citrus flavors up front (no surprise considering it contains Cointreau and lemon [...]

  4. John Holecek said:

    Jul 19, 11 at 10:46 am

    The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills hotel has upgraded its cocktail selection with a number of “classic” cocktails, one of which is the corpse reviver. I had two and had I not been driving I would have had two more; an excellent cocktail.

  5. lauren said:

    Sep 30, 11 at 3:39 pm

    discovered this drink at a great place in greenwich village, ny Have been making it ever since and converted many. toasted the day the world was alleged to end with this very lively cocktail. Be careful of bartenders following the recipe and overdoing the absinthe.

  6. Brunch Cocktails That Will Awaken The Dead said:

    Jun 22, 12 at 4:27 pm

    [...] absinthe. The Sunset Boulevard restaurant’s Corpse Reviver #2 is an excellent example of the classic hangover relieving cocktail. Bright, citrusy with just enough booziness to sneak up on you and smooth your headaches away. As a [...]

  7. Dio said:

    Feb 07, 14 at 3:19 pm

    This combination should be an amazing drink! Thanks for sharing!