2022 is hours away but I’m going around the usual New Year’s fizzy wine folderol. Instead, I’m saluting second, third, and fourth chances with the Corpse Reviver #2. It remains among the most popular drinks unearthed in the 21st-century classic cocktail revival and it’s got more than its share of devotees. I last looked at it in 2012 so it’s high time for an update.
As some of you will know, the drinks in the Corpse Reviver subgenre were putatively intended as post-bender pick-me-ups during a time when alcoholism wasn’t so much a disease as a national sport. We have better cures now, of course, including elaborate and expensive non-alcoholic nutritional “cocktails” delivered by IV and, for saner folks, water and an NSAID. Even the man who largely popularized Corpse Revivers, booze book legend Harry Craddock, cautioned that “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.” Nevertheless, most people agree it’s tasty medicine.
The Corpse Reviver #2
¾ ounce dry gin
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ Cointreau, Pierre Ferrand’s Dry Curacao, or triple sec
¾ ounce Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc
1 dash (about 1/4 teaspoon) absinthe or similar anise-based liqueur (pastis, Herbsaint, Pernod, etc.). You can also coat your glass as you would with a Sazerac. though most aficionados prefer otherwise.
Lemon peel (optional garnish)
Put all of the liquids into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously but perhaps shorter than usual (see below) and strain into a chilled, regular-size cocktail glass. I liked it better with an expressed lemon peel.
I wasn’t too happy with my initial tries at today’s drink and so I turned to internationally experienced bartender Brian Tasch. He named his blog after corpse revivers and has provided more hard-earned trial-and-error-based data than we could ask for in the pursuit of the ideal Corpse Reviver #2. Here are my takeaways after following his advice:
- I made a new liquid friend in Cocchi Americano, a fairly new arrival to the US booze scene. For those who don’t live and breathe mixed drinks, Lillet Blanc was reformulated in the 1980s from a product called Kina Lillet. Despite the lack of tangy, bitter quinine in the newer Lillet, it’s still used in recipes like the Corpse Reviver #2 that originally called for the stronger-flavored wine. Cocchi, on the other hand, has its share of quinine and it’s easy to see why it’s becoming more popular. It adds bright, bitter, and even fruitier flavors to a Corpse Reviver #2, making for a bolder and more memorable drink.
- While the tip-top premium triple-sec, Cointreau, is the usual premium go-to for CR2s and probably does produce the most consistently good results, Pierre Ferrand’s Dry Curacao – a product specifically designed for the classic/craft cocktail market – is also a good choice and less expensive besides. You can also experiment with higher ABV and more dry standard triple secs.
- I usually advise people to shake drinks with juice or dairy as much as they can to get the coldest, most refreshing outcome. Brian Tasch, however, advises against over-diluting a Corpse Reviver #2 with too much icy water. He likes to use giant ice cubes to make the drinks less watery. Since I didn’t have any of those, I reduced my shaking time and intensity. Sometimes it worked and sometimes I felt like I should have shaken it more. Just go with your preference.
- Many recipes call for a full once each of all the non-absinthe ingredients and that was my original plan. Drink recipes are usually more about proportions than amounts but there’s a good case to be made that this should be a smaller, shorter drink – if only to encourage you to enjoy it while it’s still nice and cold.
- I haven’t said a lot about your choice of gin. Brian Tasch talks about it a little but, honestly, I don’t think it makes a huge difference. It’s possible, though, that my Bombay Dry and Tanqueray Rangpur iterations were better than some of the others.
Happy New Year all. Be safe. Seriously, if anyone out there drinks and drives or isn’t vaxxing and masking, I’m comin’ for ya!