Spooky season is upon us! Some believe that winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. I respectfully disagree. Some of us like to cover our front yards in fake skeletons and plastic spiders even more than twinkling Christmas lights. To each their own. If you are a spooky season enthusiast and enjoy a themed cocktail, proceed…if you dare.
The corpse reviver is a cheeky nod to the 19th century when many Victorian Americans commonly drank alcohol in the morning. Other morning cocktails with similar names include Morning Glory, Eye Opener or Bracer. This cocktail was first published in the 1871 Gentleman’s Table Guide as a brandy, bitters and maraschino cherry beverage.
The Corpse Reviver cocktail was later popularized in one of the most influential bartender’s guides of all time, The Savoy Cocktail Book of the 1930s. The Savoy Hotel in London churned out some of the best cocktails in the world. This cocktail was so special that it was granted two different versions in the book. I went with Corpse Reviver #1, which uses brandy, calvados and vermouth. Corpse Reviver #2 is so different that I wonder why they are even related. Why not create another name? The second iteration went in an entirely different direction of gin, lemon and Cointreau. I’m assuming the through-line being their ability to refresh the morning imbiber. Whichever route you go, you’re sure to feel revived. According to its author, Harry Craddock, “It is to be taken before 11:00 am or whenever steam or energy are needed.”
Craving more cocktail history? I thought you’d never ask! I just read the most interesting book about the invention of American mixology and bartending, Imbibe by David Wondrich. The author outlines the life and history of Jerry Thomas, who many describe as the father of American mixology. Cocktails as we know them today are indeed a very American innovation. While we did not invent mixing alcohol with other ingredients, we did market them in a very unique way. Flair and individuality make up the essence of American mixology. Before Jerry, there were communal bowls of punch, but there’s nothing quite like the experience of a drink being made especially for you. Jerry Thomas showed the world that bartending could be entertaining. Making cocktails became part show and part function. Jerry’s most famous cocktail, the Blue Blazer, was quite the spectacle! He lit the alcohol on fire and poured it from cup to cup in an arc above his head. While I am incredibly interested in advancing my bartending skills, I think I’ll leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals.
What do you need? Required ingredients are ice, Cognac (or really any type of brandy), Calvados (apple-flavored brandy) and sweet vermouth. The traditional garnish is orange, but a cherry would make a fine substitute. This really is an appropriate autumn cocktail considering its use of apple flavor from the calvados and the warm spice notes in the brandy. It is the perfect beverage on a crisp fall evening or a Halloween party menu. Or simply take notes from our ancestors by saving this recipe for the day after a large celebration for a morning revival. For even more cocktail history, watch my video on Victorian American Cocktails and the Free Bar Lunch on my YouTube Channel, Savor Tooth Tiger Food History. Cheers!
Corpse Reviver #1 (From The Savoy Cocktail Book-1930)
2 ounces Cognac (or any brandy)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Calvados (or Apple Jack)
Slice of orange or a single maraschino cherry
- In a mixing glass, stir all the ingredients with ice until well chilled.
- Strain into a coupe glass or martini glass.
- Garnish with an orange slice, an orange peel or a maraschino cherry.