Corpse Reviver: A Potent and Classic Cocktail

Corpse Reviver #1 Cocktail
The Corpse Reviver No. 1 is an easy apple-flavored brandy 'martini' that you'll love to sip. Photo Courtesy: © Shannon Graham
  • 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 serving
Ratings (5)

The story of the Corpse Reviver is that of a drink "To be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed," according to The Savoy Cocktail Book (Harry Craddock, 1930).

The Corpse Reviver goes beyond just a single drink. Instead, it was an entire class of pre-Prohibition drinks. These were, quite appropriately, meant to raise the dead or (to be more realistic) the hungover drunk who stumbled into the bar early in the morning.

Of the many classic 'Corpse Reviver' recipes, only No. 1 and No. 2 survived the test of time.  Recipes for other Corpse Revivers are also worth exploring and a few of those are included below.

Today, the Corpse Reviver No. 2 is the most popular recipe. That may be due to the fact that modern drinkers tend to prefer gin over brandy though many will tell you that No. 2 has a more interesting flavor profile. I tend to agree, but it depends on your mood.

Bitters & Twisted has a detailed chronicle of the many Corpse Revivers and how they have transformed over the years.

Corpse Reviver No. 1 Recipe

What You'll Need

How to Make It

  1. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Savoy Corpse Reviver (aka Corpse Reviver No. 4)

Of the many Corpse Reviver cocktails, few retained the brandy base. One that does is the Savoy Corpse Reviver, which also goes by the name Corpse Reviver No. 4.

Again, this recipe is completely different than any other. It retains the brandy ​but opts for a minty flavor to handle that energizing aspect.

The Savoy Corpse Reviver was created in 1954 by ​the legendary bartender, Joe Gilmore. One of Harry Craddock's last apprentices at The American  Bar in The Savoy Hotel, Gilmore was a legend in the London bar scene.

He worked in the Savoy from 1945-1975 and spent much of that time lead bar's program. Gilmore passed away in December 2015.

Among the many cocktails Gilmore invented at The Savoy, the 1969 Moonwalk Cocktail is his most famous creation. It is also said that he was known for his hangover cure of a Corpse Reviver and two aspirin.

To make this drink, shake 1 ounce each brandy,  Fernet Branca, and white creme de menthe with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Corpse Reviver No. 3 Recipe

Often forgotten, this is just one version of the Corpse Reviver No. 3 recipe. It comes from the 1934 book, 1700 Cocktails for the Man Behind the Bar by R. De Fleury.

I have yet to find any reproductions of this book and the original leather-bound editions can sell for $600 or more. Apparently, it is an icon among the classic bartending guides.

To make this cocktail, shake 1 ounce each brandy, curacao, and maraschino liqueur with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Yet another Corpse Reviver No. 3

Robert Hess published this variation on DrinkBoy.com. He includes in his notes that No. 3 is elusive even in his bar library.

To make this cocktail, shake 1 each ounce brandy, Campari, and triple sec with 1/2 ounce lemon juice with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

How Strong is the Corpse Reviver?

This drink is supposed to wake you up, let's see how strong each of these recipes are...

  • Corpse Reviver No. 1: 29% ABV (58 proof)
    with 40% ABV brandy and calvados and 15% ABV vermouth
  • Corpse Reviver No. 3 (Fleury's recipe): 29% ABV (58 proof)
    with 40% ABV brandy, 30% ABV curacao, 32% ABV maraschino
  • Corpse Reviver No. 3 (DrinkBoy's recipe): 24% ABV (46 proof)
    with 40% ABV brandy, 30% ABV triple sec, 24% ABV Campari
  • Corpse Reviver No. 4: 30% ABV (60 proof)
    with 40% ABV brandy and Fernet Branca, 25% ABV creme de menthe

To put this into perspective, the classic Gin Martini is around 30% ABV while the tall John Collins is about 11% ABV. These Corpse Reviver cocktails are neither the strongest nor the weakest drinks. The reviving effect may be more about the flavor than the amount of alcohol in them.