Unearthing the Corpse Reviver No. 2

October 29 2021
Unearthing the Corpse Reviver No. 2
We all want to find the perfect hangover cure, and whether it’s a greasy breakfast or a detox smoothie, everybody knows somebody who has one their auntie swears by. One popular option, especially for us Aussies, is the good old hair of the dog. Morning-after cocktails aren’t all mimosas and bloody Marys, though. One of the oldest and most enduring cures for what ails you is the Corpse Reviver.

The Corpse Reviver dates back over 150 years, with the term first appearing in the English satirical magazine Punch in 1861. Many versions of the cocktail exist, from the very first published recipe in 1871’s The Gentleman’s Table Guide (½ wine glass brandy, ½ wine glass maraschino, two dashes Boker’s bitters), to the Godfrey’s Corpse Reviver from 1937’s Café Royal Cocktail Book (2 parts gin, 1 part vodka, dash of grenadine, dash of Angostura bitters), but by far the most popular and well-known versions of the drink come from The Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930.

The Savoy initially published two variations on the drink. The Corpse Reviver No. 1 (¼ Italian vermouth, ¼ apple brandy, ½ brandy) is “to be taken before 11am, or whenever steam and energy are needed”. As for the Corpse Reviver No. 2 (¼ wine glass lemon juice, ¼ wine glass Kina Lillet, ¼ wine glass Cointreau, ¼ wine glass dry gin, 1 dash of absinthe), “four of these taken in swift succession”, the guide’s author, Harry Craddock, tells us, “will unrevive the corpse again.”

The Corpse Reviver No. 2 proved to be the most popular version of the drink and is the one most commonly served today, despite the lack of availability of Kina Lillet to modern drinkers. While Kina Lillet, a french aromatised wine, hasn’t been produced since 1986, its successor, Lillet Blanc, is often used as a replacement. Another popular alternative is the Italian Cocchi Americano, which is said to be closer in flavour to Kina Lillet due to its quinine base. A version also exists that substitutes the Lillet for Swedish Punsch. Whichever you choose, you’ll have a sweet, aromatic aperitif to set off the citrus and anise notes of the other ingredients.
The popularity of the Corpse Reviver No. 2 fell when absinthe fell from favour, and legal status in some areas, but was revived again with the absinthe revival of the ‘90s. In the early 21st century, new life was breathed into the cocktail when a variation containing Yellow Chartreuse rather than Cointreau gained massive popularity in London. It began to appear again on bar menus around the world. In 2007, in response to a Facebook group named “A Jihad on all blue drinks”, kiwi bartender Jacob Briars created the Corpse Reviver No. Blue, which uses blue curaçao as the orange liqueur of choice, in place of Cointreau. The drink gained viral popularity and brought a new audience to this classic morning-after cocktail.

If you’d like to try a Corpse Reviver No. 2 for yourself, we recommend the Difford’s Guide version, which adds an optional touch of sugar syrup to cut through some of the potency of gin and absinthe in the morning. Just remember, this is a cocktail that says “equal parts” and means it - the delicate balance of its many herbaceous elements needs to be maintained. It might not make your head feel any lighter, but we think it’ll set you up for a cracking day.

Cheers!

- 22.5ml AmberChes Botanical Gin
 
- 22.5ml Lillet Blanc

- 22.5ml Lemon Juice
 
- 22.5ml Cointreau or Triple Sec
 
- 2 dashes absinthe
 
- barspoon of simple syrup (optional, to taste) 
 
Rinse glass with absinthe. Shake cocktail well, and strain into glass. Cheers!

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