The Curiosity of the Corpse Revivers

It’s that time of year when the wind is blowing, the thermometer has dropped a good 10 or 20 degrees and the leaves turn from green to gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow. When the seasons change, it’s time to change your cocktails. I usually go from gin and vodka to bourbon and applejack, two liquors that are not only dark and warming, they usually have delicious caramel and vanilla undertones; two flavors that are perfect for autumn. So, I’m bringing you two classic cocktails that are perfect for this time of year. They have the same name, but they’re completely different. They’re the Corpse Revivers #’s 1 & 2.

If they’re so different you’re probably wondering why they have the same name. Well, that’s because they both come from the same idea: that you could imbibe them after a long night of drinking and recover quickly. In other words, the best way to get over a hard night of drinking is… to keep on drinking.

Sure, you could go with a greasy burger and fries (my personal favorite) or smoothies with raw eggs, but if you prefer alcohol, why not just keep the party going? That’s what they believed in England when these cocktails first appeared around the 1860’s. The drinks were supposed to wake people up and get them ready to face that difficult day ahead. While I don’t necessarily follow that train of thought, a lot of people do, which is probably why they were so popular. They were so sought-after in fact; these two versions weren’t the only Revivers out there. Turns out every bartender worth his salt had his own Reviver before Prohibition ended the never-ending party. And every single one of them was meant to be drunk as “hair of the dog”.

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Via Fine Editions Ltd.

While these drinks were all the rage in the late 1800’s, there were only three or four left by the time Prohibition ended, and they were losing their popularity. But thanks to barman Harry Craddock, the cocktail regained popularity when he included them in his Savoy Cocktail Handbook in 1930. He didn’t just include the drinks in his Handbook though; he started serving them as well. See, revelers who were recovering from the effects of poorly made Prohibition-era hooch would often stumble into his bar looking for relief.  That’s when Craddock would quickly whip up a Number One or Number Two (depending on the patron’s tastes) and turn that hungover patron into a pretty happy soul. He only had one rule when making the Revivers: they should “be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed.”

So, how can two totally different cocktails have the same effects? Both have four ounces of liquor in them. Four ounces may not seem like a lot, but when it’s all alcohol and no mixers, that makes for one very strong drink, and a strong drink means you won’t be feeling those effects of that nasty hangover after a sip or two. (At least not for a little while.) As a matter of fact, Craddock noted in his Handbook that “Four of these taken in quick succession will unrevive the corpse again.”

Now that you know what you’re in for, you need to decide which one to imbibe.  If you want something a little mellower, go with the Number Two. Made with Cointreau and gin, this drink is light and perfect for those warmer evenings or brunches. It has some delightful citrus notes thanks to the lemon juice and Cointreau, but has a definite herbal undertone thanks to the dash or two of Absinthe. The most important thing to remember with the #2 is that less is more and the measurements really do matter. Simply adding an extra half-ounce or two of Cointreau or three or four dashes of Absinthe instead of one or two, get you a completely different drink, and one that may keep that hangover intact as opposed to whisking it away. The Number Two works because the measurements are exact, and if you’re going to tame that hangover, you want to enjoy whatever does the taming, right?

While the gin version is perfect for those Indian summers and warm September and October nights of the southwest, the brandy and applejack version is more befitting these chilly months. Remember when I mentioned switching my lighter liquors for those with more fall flavors? The Number One is just as strong as the Number Two but thanks to the brandy and applejack it’s like autumn in a glass. The drink is slightly sweeter than the gin version thanks to the apple and caramel undertones that come from the Applejack and brandy. But it still packs quite a punch. Similar to the Number Two, this fall version doesn’t need anything extra, it tastes great the way it is.

So, the next time your stomach is doing flip flops or your head is pounding thanks to a big night out, skip the aspirin. Instead go to your bar and stir (or shake) up one of these Revivers. Not only will they have you reliving your fun evening, they’re strong enough to revive anyone, even a walking corpse.

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Corpse Reviver #1

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. brandy
  • 1 oz. applejack
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

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Corpse Reviver #2

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 ounce Lillet Blanc
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce gin
  • a couple drops of Absinthe
  • 1 maraschino cherry (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with a cherry if you’d like.

Cocktail photos by Jennifer Richmond


Jennifer Richmond has been cooking ever since she could hold a wooden spoon. Her food blog, Kitchy Cooking, appeared in 2009 when she realized she could combine her love of vintage life with cooking and writing. While she enjoys creating twists on classic savory and sweet recipes, she especially loves learning about the history and recreating vintage cocktails. You can follow her blog at kitchycooking.com and on Instagram and twitter at @kitchycooker.

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