New Orleans is a Halloween town, filled with mystical courtyards, shadowy balconies, the eerie drip of Spanish Moss hanging from gnarled Live Oak limbs and, well, the potential that some of our residents are, in fact, vampires.
October can absolutely be a rough month in New Orleans. I am speaking of hangovers. If you live here, this month is as busy, if not busier, than December.
In October, the city embraces all things spooky and disturbing, from haunted houses on steroids to parades such as Krewe of Boo to concerts and parties prolific. The welcome bite of cooler air keeps us at the bar a little longer.
And some of us may suffer the effects of one-too-many drinks too many times to count this month.
That’s why October is a good month to honor reviver cocktails—particularly the best of the bunch, The Corpse Reviver No. 2.
There’s some fun history here, too.
A Reviver actually refers to a type of drink; one meant to wake the system up. The jest is that these drinks will ‘revive a corpse,’ aka—cure the hangover caused by a previous night of drinking.
Drinks like the Bloody Mary and the Mimosa were invented in the 1920s and 1930s, right around the time places like Brennan’s were popularizing Brunch.
Early morning cocktails in the 1920s and 1930s were stiff affairs and the Corpse Revivers led that pack.
The jest is that these drinks will ‘revive a corpse,’ aka—cure the hangover caused by a previous night of drinking.
There are three recipes for Corpse Revivers, simply deemed: The Corpse Reviver No. 1, the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and—you guessed it—the Corpse Reviver No. 3.
No. 1 and No. 3 are not worth your time. They aren’t very delicious, and most bars do not place them on menus for this very reason.
The Corpse Reviver No. 2, however, is a drink both lovely and timeless. It’s tart, with lingering notes of star anise and intense lemon balanced by botanical gin. It’s floral enough to serve at a breezy brunch, but it would also stand up to an all-night party—particularly a Halloween-themed fête.
Harry Craddock wrote in The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930, about this drink, saying, “Four of these taken in swift succession will un-revive the corpse again.”
Whether Craddock meant it to be a warning or a promotion wrapped in a confusing double negative, it matters not. If you are looking for great classic cocktail recipes, The Savoy is a fantastic dictionary for the ages.
If you are looking to make a perfect Corpse Reviver No. 2, look no further.
For this writer, it’s two big dashes of absinthe added in the shaker, and the preference of a gin with a little less juniper on the palate. I like something a little more citrus and floral botanical for a Corpse Reviver, like Hendrick’s, and I love that extra moment of star anise.
It’s a personal choice and experimenting slightly with different gins will produce different results.
As to knocking off a hangover by starting a new one? Probably not the most mature idea, but, hey, it’s New Orleans.
It’s October. We need a reviver.