Many cocktails have a quasi-medicinal origin story. Herbs and flowers have long been infused into alcohol and used to treat illnesses like digestive issues, scurvy, or fevers. People once made their bitter medicine more palatable by mixing it with sugar and spirits (sounds like an old fashioned, no?) Tonic water began as simply dissolved quinine to help ward off malaria. But no cocktail has a more brazen curative claim than the set of cocktails under the name Corpse Reviver.
If a feeling of death overtook the body after a night of over-indulgence or just a slight mid-morning gut punch was needed, Corpse Revivers have been there to… help? The first known recipe was a bracing hair-of-the-dog served in small portions and likely meant to be taken with haste. Published in “The Gentleman’s Table Guide” in 1871, it called for equal parts brandy and maraschino cherry liqueur with two dashes of Boker’s bitters. It would have been strong, sweet, herbal, and far more than most would enjoy sipping through early in the morning.
In 1930, legendary barman Harry Craddock published the now world-famous “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” which included a revised, full-sized Corpse Reviver recipe—now with brandy, apple brandy, and Italian vermouth. The update came with an interesting addition of a parenthetical “(No. 1)” attached. (Also added: an aggressive serving suggestion that reads, “To be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed.”) The very next recipe was called Corpse Reviver (No. 2) and has become widely beloved for its balance and freshness. It’s unknown why the bar team at The Savoy chose to relate the two entirely different cocktails, but this began a simultaneously confusing and delicious dynasty.
It wasn’t until 2007 that the youngest and most rebellious member of the Corpse Reviver clan was born in Queenstown, New Zealand. A cocktail competitor named Jacob Briars substituted the traditional orange curaçao for blue curaçao, thus creating Corpse Reviver No. Blue. Finally, pretentious mixologists were granted a vehicle back to accepting the fact that everyone likes blue drinks.
This category of cocktails was invented to jump-start the day. It’s no wonder they have now seamlessly transitioned into modern brunch staples. Jumping into the weekend, or jumping into some trouble on a Sunday funday, the Corpse Revivers will be there to provide steam and energy. Any of the Corpse Reviver family can be ordered at any time from a favorite craft cocktail bartender, but the best bet will be Corpse Reviver No. Blue from the classics masters at Hodges Bend.
Recipe for Corpse Reviver No. 2
¾ ounce London dry gin
¾ ounce Cointreau (substitute blue curacao for a No. Blue)
¾ ounce Lillet Blanc
¾ ounce Lemon juice
Rinse a coupe glass with absinthe and pour out the remainder. Shake all other ingredients with ice and strain into the coupe. Garnish with a lemon peel.