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Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, Corpse Reviver #2!
For that voodoo you do.
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. Today I’ve got a refreshing pick-me-up for your Halloween cocktail — a little sumpin-sumpin to get you perked up before Halloween sets in, or to help you recover from the evening’s festivities. Let’s unearth another classic cocktail and serve up a Corpse Reviver #2. Here’s the recipe:
Corpse Reviver #2
1 oz. Boodles Gin
1 oz. Lilet Blanc
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. Stirrings Natural Triple Sec
1 star anise pod
Spray a mist of absinthe over (not into) a chilled coupe glass. Shake remaining ingredients and double strain into the chilled coupe. Garnish with a star anise pod.
The Corpse Reviver is one of a series of cocktails designed to pick you up after a hard night of drinking, in a “hair of the dog that bit you” sort of fashion. The original Corpse Reviver may date back as far as 1871; there’s record of one monster of a cocktail that features half a wine glass of brandy(!), half a wine glass of Maraschino liquor(!!), and two dashes of bitters (...why?). That much liquor is definitely a pick-me-up for the damned. The Corpse Reviver #2 first showed up in Harry Craddock’s Savoy cocktail book in 1930; Trader Vic copied the recipe faithfully in Trader Vic’s Bartender Guide as well. Craddock helpfully points out that “Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”
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The numbering on the Corpse Revivers gets a little vague. There are probably four, but some purists insist that a given cocktail might be #3a, instead of #4. I’ve heard rumors of a Corpse Reviver #Blue, which uses blue curacao instead of triple sec. The #4 is a glorious hobgoblin of a drink — one part each of brandy, Fernet, and white creme de menthe. As a Fernet fanatic, I’d guzzle this in a heartbeat (and then probably run for the bathroom). The various Corpse Revivers don’t have a lot in common, but I believe that the successful ones use a strong spice and herbal component to jump-start the target.
In the Corpse Reviver #2, the combination of absinthe and lemon juice is what gets you back on your feet. Absinthe shows up fairly often in classic cocktails but only as a rinse or mist. The Vieux Carre, a classic New Orleans cocktail that still hangs on in some bars, is a prime example. Absinthe is heavily anise flavored, extremely sweet, and is generally high proof. Quality absinthe will turn cloudy when you add cold water to it; the fennel and star anise will precipitate out of the alcohol solution, creating what liquor snobs call the absinthe “louche.” Louche is a really cool phenomenon; the guys at Serious Eats talk a lot about it here.
Absinthe is pretty amazing, but it will definitely not make you hallucinate. The miniscule amounts of modern absinthe we use in cocktails are harmless. Old-school absinthe doesn’t seem to encourage sightings of the green fairy either. A moral panic, stoked by struggling French brandy distillers, seems to be the root cause of that myth. The tipping point came in 1904, when Jean Lanfray, a Swiss laborer, murdered his wife and two little daughters, and his defense attorneys claimed he had been suffering psychosis from the absinthe he had drunk with lunch. They neglected to mention the seven glasses of wine, six glasses of cognac, one coffee laced with brandy, and two crème de menthes Lanfray had already consumed. The damage was done, however, and outraged citizens signed petitions to ban absinthe in Switzerland. Other nations followed, and the industry was obliterated. It’s a testament to the strength of the myth of absinthe madness that the spirit is only now making a comeback.
Let’s talk ingredients:
Boodles Gin: This is my favorite London Dry gin; it’s far more mellow than Beefeater. A dry gin is definitely needed here, to provide a crisp herbal background for the other ingredients.
Lillet Blanc: Cocktail enthusiasts will recommend Cocci Americano over Lillet Blanc. Lillet has been reformulated over the years, and Cocci Americano is closer to “traditional” Lillet Blanc. I feel that Lillet is softer and more approachable in this glass than the spicier Cocci Americano. If you don’t have either vermouth on hand, an ounce of dry white wine will do. (That would make it Corpse Reviver #5. Or 3b, possibly. As I said, the numbers are a bit confused.)
Stirrings Natural Triple Sec: I think this is a great alternative to Cointreau, which is the gold standard for cocktails like this. Cointreau is ridiculously expensive. Stirrings is much more reasonably priced. You can find half-pints of Cointreau behind the counter at your liquor store if you really do love the original.
Lemon Juice: Fresh is best, always. I double strain to keep every bit of pith out of the glass.
Absinthe: It’s not hard to find Absente or Pernod brands on the liquor shelves these days. I’m not enough of a snob to taste a difference. It’s a pricey bottle, and you’ll only use a tiny amount at a time. But it’s one of those ingredients that opens the door to classic cocktails. You won’t regret having it in your liquor cabinet.
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