Alcohol and medicine have a long history together. Once upon a time, cocktails were not considered refreshments. Instead, for much of their history, the first cocktails were consumed as tonics for all sorts of ailments, and bitters were first sold as medicine until someone very wise passed a law allowing only medicine to be sold as medicine. Going back much farther, we find that many of the words for liquors – whiskey, eau de vie, akvavit, and so on – all mean the same thing, “water of life.” Our ancestors knew what was what. Here are two classic cocktails, the Corpse Reviver No. 1 and No. 2, that were designed to cure (and probably caused their fair share of) the dreaded hangover.
Read below for the full recipes!
Corpse Reviver #1
1 1/2 oz Brandy
3/4 oz Calvados or Apple Brandy
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
Stir the ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass (if you have the wherewithal to chill a cocktail glass when you need one of these) and twist a piece of lemon peel over top.
This recipe will definitely wake you up: it has some sweetness from the vermouth and a nice vanilla accent from the brandy, but the calvados helps make this drink sharp and bracing. Harry Craddock, from whose 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book I borrowed this recipe, said that this drink was “to be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed.”
Corpse Reviver #2
3/4 oz Dry Gin
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc (we used Dolin Blanc)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 Dash Absinthe
Combine all the ingredients, shake with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This one is less bracing and more refreshing than the first: sweet and citrusy from the Cointreau and lemon juice, with complex botanical notes from the gin, floral notes from the Dolin Blanc, and a wake-up call of anise from the absinthe, this drink will wake you up if you need it. Craddock warned that “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”
Both of these cocktails date back to a time before there was Advil or Aleve, and before there were any Starbucks with 24 hour drive-through windows. Taste or ingredient-wise, they don’t have much in common, but they fall into the same mismatched family of drinks called corpse revivers, or bracers, or eye openers, or morning glories, or…you get the picture. So don’t feel guilty if you have one of these with breakfast – just tell any scandalized onlookers that you’re taking part in a long and rich tradition of corpse revival.
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper