Designed to bring the mortally hungover back to life, the Corpse Reviver series comprises a group of medicinal cocktails that generally begin with Harry Craddock’s versions #1 and #2 (1930). But, of course, The Nosey Chef has found out that the basic idea is much older.
The first record of a Corpse Reviver comes way back in 1861 when Abraham Lincoln was the President and the American Civil War was mid-eruption. Back then, the drink was mentioned in passing in an issue of the London periodical Punch. The article from a US correspondent describes a tale of a WJ Yancey who had a female friend with the ear of the President (in 1861, this President may have been either Lincoln, or Buchanan). Yancey was clearly in some degree of bother because the President responded by saying that the only person who will speak with “that traitor” will be the Marshal who hangs him. Yancey was, clearly, in a world of shit.
On hearing the news, the Marshal in question was described as getting tanked up on “a Sling, a Stone Wall and a Corpse Reviver,” starting dancing, and singing this ditty:
“I would I were with Yancey, aha, aha!
On a nice black floor;
with a small trapdoor.
What a joy to be with Yancey!”
One presumes Yancey did not make it.
To find an actual recipe for a Corpse Reviver, we have to go to 1871 (Ulysses S Grant in charge) and open a copy of The Gentleman’s Table Guide by Ricket and Thomas Here, the drink calls for brandy, maraschino and bitters is served in a wine glass. We have not made this (yet), but it is going to come out very similar to a Manhattan.
The two canonical versions of the Corpse Reviver appear in 1930 in the famous The Savoy Cocktail Book by the legendary Harry Craddock.
Numbered #1 and #2, the runaway winner among these cocktails is the second one, which mixes equal parts of gin, lemon, triple sec and Lillet, adds a dash of absinthe and shakes over ice. A Kentucky Corpse Reviver swaps the gin for bourbon.
The Savoy Hotel can be found at Strand, London, WC2R 0EZ, UK.
Corpse Reviver #2
- 25ml London dry gin
- 25ml lemon juice
- 25ml Cointreau
- 25ml of something close to the defunct Kina Lillet; Cocchi Americano is thought to be the best; I use Lillet Blanc; if you have neither, use a dry, white vermouth like Martini Extra Dry
- 1 dash absinthe
Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into chilled Martini glass.
Garnish with a slip of orange peel.