Delightfully refreshing, slightly sweet yet tart, and with lovely notes of citrus, the Corpse Reviver No. 2 has become one of my favorite cocktails.
Imagine that it’s 1919 in New York City.
You’ve based your career around bartending in well-known spots at the time. Things seem fantastic…until Prohibition hits a year later. Your livelihood is gone, so what would you do?
If you were Harry Craddock, you’d (allegedly) shake the last pre-Prohibition cocktail, catch a boat to your home country, England, and quickly become the head bartender at the American Bar within the historic Savoy Hotel.
While at the Savoy, Craddock compiled over 700 of the Bar’s cocktail recipes into The Savoy Cocktail Book. Published in 1930, it continues to inspire professionals and home craft cocktail connoisseurs alike.
My first taste of a delectable drink from that famous cocktail book happened last October. A few coworkers and I dinned at the upscale, but welcoming, Stark’s Steakhouse and Seafood. We sat at their dark retro bar for a pre-meal cocktail. Although their menu is packed with classics and house cocktails, I chose to ask the bartender to make me something special that was refreshing, not too sweet, and gin-based.
I took one sip of the cocktail he crafted and I was in love.
The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is delightfully refreshing, slightly sweet yet tart, and has lovely hints of citrus. It's a perfectly balanced drink with a lingering end note of anise that works so well.
After falling in love with the Corpse Reviver No. 2 , I knew I had to have it again. All but one of the ingredients were easily found at my local liquor store. The Kina Lillet (pronounced lee-LAY) was the problem child. According to many websites and cocktail blogs, Kina Lillet was reformulated in the 1980s, reducing the quinine levels, which reduced the bitterness of the aperitif wine. Without having any idea what Kina Lillet tasted like, I trusted the many websites that said Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano (pronounced KOH-kee uh-meh-ree-KAH-noh), were both acceptable substitutes. The Cocchi has a bitter bite at the end, which many said is closer to the Kina. I opted to make my Corpse Reviver No. 2 with the Cocchi.
With all ingredients in hand, I mixed up the Corpse Reviver No. 2 as Craddock prescribed: equal parts dry gin, Contrau, Cocchi Americano, lemon juice, and one drop Pernod. I vigorously shook the ingredients together with ice, and with that first sip I was taken back to...NOPE.
Something seemed off, unbalanced, and I didn’t notice the anise flavor of the Pernod at all. I slightly changed the ratios and tried again. This time, when I took that first sip, I was transported back to that beautiful bar at Stark’s.
My recipe below for the Corpse Reviver No. 2 is not exactly what Craddock provided in The Savoy Cocktail Book or even what most cocktail websites publish. That being said, my version is a light, refreshing cocktail that packs a punch and suits my tastes buds.
Oh, and don’t overindulge, because according to Craddock, “Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”
Learn how to properly shake a cocktail from the pros at Liquor.com
Substituting Cocchi Americano for the Kina Lillet worked great for me, but if you can’t find the Cocchi, the Lillet Blanc still makes a wonderful drink (trust me...I ended up mixing up the Corpse Reviver No. 2 with both the Cocchi and Lillet...you know, for science).
If you loved the slight orange hints in this drink, try my orange pomegranate sparkling cocktail. It's simple and delicious!
If you can, chill or ice your cocktail glass before making the cocktail. Craddock recommends this step in The Savoy Cocktail Book under “A Few Hints for the Young Mixer.”
Corpse Reviver No. 2
- 2 ounces aperitif wine
- 2 ounces dry gin
- 2 ounces triple sec
- 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Splash absinthe
- Combine all ingredients into your cocktail shaker of choice.
- Fill with ice, vigorously shake, and pour into two chilled cocktail glasses.
Adapted from Harry Craddock's [The Savoy Cocktail Book.