Easter Lockdown Cocktail: The Corpse Reviver No. 2

I’ve been wondering whether it’s tasteless to recommend a cocktail called Corpse Reviver during a pandemic. Then I realised the UK Health Secretary can’t or won’t answer how many NHS staff have died and some police forces think it’s okay to start threatening to check the contents of people’s shopping baskets without any remote legal justification. So I think blogging about a Corpse Reviver is pretty fucking tame, all considered.

Glass of Corpse Reviver No. 2

Anyway. Let’s not get political, eh? Let’s instead justify this as the goddamn perfect Easter cocktail, commemorating probably the most famous corpse revival of all.

So the Corpse Reviver No. 2 is the kind of cocktail you reach for when your tastebuds need a defibrillating jolt of acid and booze. It’s a zingy, citric gob-awakener of a drink, perfect pre-dinner. If you’re lucky enough to be locked down somewhere with a garden (and lucky enough to have a bottle of Absinthe or Pastis kicking about) make yourself one this evening and drink it amidst flowers, evening sunshine and the squalling of every brattish quarantined child in a two-mile vicinity.

The genius and the challenge of the Corpse Reviver No. 2 is the anise from the Absinthe, which adds a lilting fin de siècle wooziness to the drink, but has to be subtle otherwise it overpowers everything else. You want the anise wafting ephemerally around the drink, that’s all.

The recipe goes back to the 1930s at least, when it appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book, and there are a fair few variants. The original used Kina Lillet, which is no longer available. I find a standard dry vermouth (Dolin or Noilly Prat) works fine, though some recipes ask for Lillet Blanc. Don’t worry too much about substitutions like this: the main thing is to strike the correct balance between the acid of the lemon, the sweetness of the Triple Sec and the punch of the gin. If you want to use Cointreau instead of Triple Sec or Pastis instead of the traditional Absinthe, you should go right ahead.

Corpse Reviver No. 2 in Nick & Nora glass

Some recipes also add sugar syrup. Unless you have a substantially sweeter tooth than I, I suggest you refrain from this. The beauty of the Corpse Reviver is its bracing acidity, and I find the sweetness of the Triple Sec is more than sufficient.

Anyhow, here’s the Old Parn method.

Corpse Reviver No. 2 Recipe

  1. Measure equal parts of Triple Sec, freshly squeezed lemon juice, dry vermouth and London Gin (no need for anything too swanky; classic gins like Tanqueray are good) into a cocktail shaker
  2. Add ice (remember, big cubes) and shake for about 15 seconds until thoroughly chilled
  3. Get your glass from the freezer (you keep them there, right?) and rinse with a dash or two of Absinthe or Pastis. Basically, pour a small amount into the glass, swirl it around so it coats the surface, and tip away the excess
  4. Strain the other ingredients into the glass and garnish with a lemon twist
  5. Suck it down you like the corpse-reviving elixir it is. Happy Easter.
Squeezed lemon half on a juicer

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