The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is one of the best-tasting classic cocktails out there. Here's how to make this strong but smooth, balanced cocktail recipe.
Why we love this recipe
Here's a weird fact: part of the appeal of some of my favorite classic cocktails is that they're not a thing you easily fall in love with on the first sip. Love for a dirty martini, for example, or a Last Word, feels earned. There's something wonderful about a love like that.
A Corpse Reviver No. 2, though, is easy to love. It has so many of the same sophisticated elements of those other cocktails — and a dash of absinthe, to boot — and yet it's utterly drinkable from the get-go.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- You'll start with a good London dry gin. In this post I've pictured Hendrick's. I also love Bombay Sapphire. Each has a different flavor profile, but they both work nicely, as will your favorite brand.
- You can use either Lillet blanc or Cocchi Americano in this recipe. Read the sections below to learn more.
- Cointreau adds a smooth, lovable orange note to your drink.
- There's no substitute for freshly squeezed lemon juice, which adds brightness and balance to this cocktail.
- You'll use the tiniest bit of the absinthe to add a tremendous amount of dimension to this drink.
- Garnish with an orange twist. Here I've pictured a minimalist segment of peel removed from the fruit with a vegetable peeler — often my preference. If you'd like to learn to make a proper citrus twist, you can watch the video in this post.
Details about your ingredients
This cocktail calls for some less-common ingredients. Here's a little more info about what you'll be drinking.
Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit made from botanicals including wormwood, green anise and sweet fennel. Wormwood (a.k.a. Artemisia absinthium) is an herb that's been used in traditional medicine for centuries.
There may be no spirit with a more storied history than absinthe. It was introduced in France in the 1840s and was quickly steeped in mythology. Enthusiasts touted the "Green Fairy" for unlocking creativity, while naysayers convinced themselves it led to madness.
Absinthe is strong, at up to 74% ABV. (Two of today's most common brands ring in a little lower: St. George at 60% and Pernod at 68%.) And wormwood contains thujone, a chemical compound that is toxic in large doses. (So do sage, tarragon, and coriander, for reference.) But tales that absinthe causes hallucinations and leads to insanity are purely apocryphal.
That didn't prevent absinthe from being banned in the United States and much of Europe for almost 100 years, from the early 1900s until recently (2007 in the U.S.).
Lucky for us, it's back.
Cointreau is a 40% ABV orange liqueur made from a secret formula containing sugar beet and dried orange peel. It has been produced in Saint-Barthélemy-d'Anjou, France since 1875. It's a component of many well-known cocktails from margaritas to Cosmos, and is also popular by itself as both aperitif and digestif.
Cointreau is a beautifully balanced, versatile, and very likable product.
Ready for something confusing? Cointreau is a triple sec, meaning it's in the subcategory of orange liqueurs which, as distinguished from curaçao, is less sweet and is made in France. ("Sec" means dry in French, and no one quite knows where the "triple" comes from.) Cointreau was originally called Cointreau Triple Sec.
When lots of other companies started producing lesser-quality triple secs, Cointreau wanted to distinguish its superior product, so it dropped the triple sec from its name.
These days, "triple sec" is commonly, a little bit sloppily, used to mean orange liqueur in general, and can connote both lower quality and lower alcohol content.
Lillet blanc (say lee-LAY) is a French aperitif wine. It’s made from Bordeaux grapes, aromatized with herbs, spices, and citrus, and fortified (to 17% ABV — stronger than wine, but gentle for a cocktail ingredient) with macerated fruit liqueurs. It’s similar to vermouth in those respects. In fact, I once heard a NJ bartender refer to it as “French vermouth,” which might make any sense at all if a large portion of actual vermouth didn’t come from France.
Not too sweet, not too bitter, Lillet blanc is great on its own over ice, and it also makes an amenable cocktail ingredient.
Cocchi Americano (say KOHK-ee, like COKE-ee but without the diphthong) is also a fortified, aromatized aperitif wine. It's been made in Piedmont, Italy, since 1891 from Moscato d’Asti wine steeped with bitter orange, gentian, wormwood and cinchona. (Cinchona is also the source of quinine.)
Drink it neat or on the rocks, or use it as the modern world's closest approximation of Kina Lillet, the original ingredient called for in the Vesper and the Corpse Reviver #2.
Cocchi Americano is more bitter than Lillet blanc and therefore more similar to Kina Lillet, an original ingredient in the Corpse Reviver which is no longer produced.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a Corpse Reviver No. 2. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour in gin, Lillet blanc or Cocchi Americano, Cointreau, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Add a dash of absinthe.
- Shake until very well chilled.
- Strain into a coupe glass, garnish with an orange twist, and serve. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is part of a series of strong cocktails created in the mid-1800s (and expanded and riffed upon over time, as one does with classic cocktails) to revive bar patrons the morning after a particularly rough night. It's basically undisputed that the No. 2 is the tastiest of the bunch.
Though initially prescribed to be drunk before 11 a.m., I much prefer this cocktail (and look, basically all cocktails) in the evening.
People generally agree that a dash means about ⅕ teaspoon. I don't worry about it too much, but if you want to measure, you can use a generous ⅛ teaspoon.
Sure thing. Up to three hours before serving time, pour into a pitcher: 1 cup gin, 1 cup Lilet Blanc or Cocchi Americano, 1 cup Cointreau, 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 teaspoon absinthe, and ½ cup water. Stir and refrigerate. At serving time, divide among glasses and garnish each with an orange twist. Makes 8 drinks.
More favorite cocktails using Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano
- 1 ounce (30 ml) gin
- 1 ounce (30 ml) Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano
- 1 ounce (30 ml) Cointreau
- 1 ounce (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 dash absinthe
- Orange twist, to garnish
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
- Pour in the gin, Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano, Cointreau, lemon juice, and abisnthe.
- Shake well until very cold.
- Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with an orange twist.
- Cocchi Americano is more bitter than Lillet blanc and therefore more similar to Kina Lillet, an original ingredient in the Corpse Reviver No. 2, which is no longer produced. Depending on where you live, it may not be easy peasy to get both of them. Either will do nicely.
- People generally agree that a dash means about ⅕ teaspoon. I don't worry about it too much, but if you want to measure, you can use a generous ⅛ teaspoon.
- If you like, you can batch this cocktail for a party. Up to three hours before serving time, pour into a pitcher: 1 cup gin, 1 cup Lilet Blanc or Cocchi Americano, 1 cup Cointreau, 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 teaspoon absinthe, and ½ cup water. Stir and refrigerate. At serving time, divide among glasses and garnish each with an orange twist. Makes 8 drinks.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200