Any google search will quickly reveal a brief history of “Corpse Reviver” cocktail, a drink whose codification many attribute to Harry Craddock, who was known to make variations of this format at his American Bar, at the Savoy Hotel in London. Most famously, the Corpse Reviver numbers 1 and 2 come from Craddock’s book, The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) and each makes an appearance in different cocktail flights on Volume 4 of our cocktail menu, Colonial America.
The Corpse Reviver seems to have started first as both a format of bracing, boozy drinks in the age before mixed drink/cocktail recipes were written down, and as a colloquialism for those style of drinks used to fight hangovers. Puns abound regarding the temporary nature of these hangover “cures,” but in essence they were they predecessor of “hair of the dog” and got you drunk enough in the morning after tying one on to drink for a little bit the next day before crashing again. We can all sympathize.
Sources will tell you the first mention of a Corpse Reviver comes from an 1861 issue of Punch. You’ll have to go to the archive to find that the story (titled “A Smash for a Sensationalist”) in which the Reviver makes an appearance isn’t about booze at all but about a letter from an American correspondent describing the traitorous politics of British government agents in supporting the south during the Civil War. The correspondent tells a second- or third-hand tale that the US Marshall (or “hangman,” depending on which flowery loop you follow in Punch’s 19th century prose), upon hearing he would get to execute certain traitors, slammed a few drinks before celebrating his patriotic duty. Those drinks were “a Sling, a Stone Wall, and a Corpse-Reviver.”
After Punch, according to an article from Tales, the Reviver made rounds on Parisian menus through the 1860s, but the first published recipe for a Reviver comes from the 1871 book The Gentleman’s Table Guide, by Ricket & Thomas, the recipe for which is one half brandy, one half maraschino, two dashes of Boker’s. Other recipes begin to proliferate through the late 19th century and early 1900s until we arrive back at Craddock’s Revivers, the two of which (though especially the second) swept away the competition and dominated subsequent iterations and tellings. One suspects the enduring nature of these two specific recipes is in little part related to Craddock’s own humor about them, telling us to drink the #1 “before 11am or whenever steam and energy are needed.”
We feature the Corpse Reviver No. 1 as one third of a cocktail fight honoring its base spirit, apple brandy, and the most enduring American maker of apple brandy, Laird & Company. We use cognac, Laird & Company’s apple brandy, Cocchi di Torino, and our house Bogart Bitters—an estimation of the original Boker’s Bitters. Joining the Corpse Reviver #1 on the Laird & Company flight are the Jack Rose and a Wassail.