The Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail is the surviving member of a collection of unrelated hangover remedies from the 19th century. It’s not that #1, #3, #4, and #5 were lost, they just don’t taste as good to current palates. The first published use of the term Corpse Reviver as a hangover remedy dates from 1861, and lots of versions were invented by enterprising saloon-keepers. This drink, published as The Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail book, is the single one of these that stands the test of time. I don’t really subscribe to “hair of the dog” hangover cures, so I can’t comment as to its efficacy in that regard, but it is delicious. Despite packing a punch, the lightness of the spirits and the citrus flavors keep it refreshing and the Pernod (or Absinthe, if you like) adds a medicinal complexity. Craddock, the author of the famous recipe, warns: “Four of these take in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again” – which while perhaps obvious, should be taken to heart. The excellent Kindred Cocktails blog has a long post about the variations and history of this drink here – it’s definitely worth reading.
What ingredients should you use in the Corpse Reviver #2?
There are 4 ingredients in the Corpse Reviver #2, plus the Pernod rinse described below. Gin is the primary spirit, then Cointreau and Lillet Blanc, and finally lemon juice. With the Gin, I’d definitely avoid any particularly subtle flavors as they will get lost amidst these other more powerful tastes. Luckily, there are a thousand options for quality mid-range options to choose from. I usually go for New Amsterdam gin for cocktails where I want a fairly neutral base Gin, and it’s a good deal at less than $20 a bottle. Lillet Blanc is great and worth having in your bar, for this and other cocktails and to drink on its own with a splash of soda (garnish with an orange slice). While one could experiment with other wine-based apertifs, I would not. Lemon juice is straight forward, just use fresh, but the fourth ingredient calls for a little clarification.
What’s the deal with Cointreau?
Most recipes for the Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail (or other “fancy” cocktails) you’ll see today call for Cointreau. This orange liqueur has become the generic term for high-quality triple sec, but it’s really just one brand in a broad category. Triple sec is an orange-flavored pot-distilled liqueur, developed in France. It is technically very similar to Curacao, but was developed later and uses less sugar, so it’s “drier” or “sec.” It is not three-times less sweet or distilled three times – no one seems to know for sure why it’s “triple sec” – but the answer is probably marketing.
There are several alternatives to Cointreau, which is great, but somewhat pricey. I like Luxardo Triplum (made by the same people best known for making Maraschino liqueur) as well as Combier – both are excellent for use in cocktails and a little less expensive than Cointreau. Grand Marnier is a blend of Triple Sec and Cognac – so it’s definitely not a substitute. And you should steer clear of Hiram Walker or anything in that range, or anything blue. It’s a mystery how Blue Curacao became a thing, but it’s definitely best avoided, except if you’re doing a deep investigation of tiki drinks or tourist dives in the tropics. Serious Eats has an excellent rundown on this whole category, here.
How to Make the Corpse Reviver #2 – Technique Notes
There are two technical points to comment on with the Corpse Reviver #2. First, it’s an equal parts drink, so the primary ingredients have equal proportions. In many cases, following these recipes literally can lead to a drink that skews sweet, requiring some tweaks. The Negroni falls squarely into this category, where we recommend going a lot heavier on the gin and lighter on the Campari. So in general, take an equal parts recipe with a grain of salt. For most of them, I add about 33% more of the primary spirit (Gin here), and dial back the secondary ones a bit. The math still is easy – you can just do a heavy pour on your gin and a light one on your other liqueurs and it’ll be fantastic.
Secondly, this drink calls for a rinse. This is a technique where you pour about a quarter ounce of highly flavored liqueur into the glass, swirl to coat the glass, then dump the excess. The Sazerac is another example of this, also with Pernod or Absinthe.
So chill your glass, fill the shaker with ice and add liquid ingredients. Then dump the ice, rinse the glass, shake, strain and pour. Enjoy, but stop before you become a corpse again!
Corpse Reviver #2
- 1 oz Gin
- 0.75 oz Lillet Blanc
- 0.75 oz Cointreau
- 1 oz Lemon Juice
- 1 dash Pernod
- Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with Pernod
- Shake the other liquid ingredients for 15 seconds
- Strain and serve