The Corpse Reviver cocktail is like the movie Star Wars.

They both have endless sequels; none are quite alike; and they both build on the original “recipe” while weaving in new and distinctive characters. In fact, the Corpse Reviver is actually a unique subset cocktail category. It uses the exact same name, but different numbers to designate alternative ingredients.

Prescribed as a hair of the dog remedy in the 1800s, it was the granddaddy of our modernday breakfast and brunch cocktails. The first Corpse Reviver appeared in the 1871 book, Gentlemen’s Table Guide and was served in a wine glass and made of brandy, Maraschino liqueur and Boker’s bitters. Another early print iteration swapped the liqueur for vermouth and nixed the bitters.

The cocktail really went mainstream (and the reason why it’s still moonlighting on menus today) when bartender Harry Craddock included two versions in his 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. In it, he says the first version should be “taken before 11 a.m. or whenever steam and energy is needed,” and for the second riff, he recommends that four in swift succession will revive the corpse again. Indeed, Craddock was a comedian.

Craddock’s Corpse Reviver #2 recipe, made with lemon juice, Kina Lillet, Cointreau, a dash of absinthe, and gin cannot be replicated today, sadly. Kina Lillet, a French aperitif made from white wine and flavored with the bark of the kina-kina (or cinchona tree), went extinct in the mid-80s. However, modernday Lillet is a decent substitute.

Adding to the series, R. De Fleury published a Corpse Reviver #3 recipe in the 1934 book, 1700 Cocktails for the Man Behind the Bar. Under the ‘pick-me-up’ category, Corpse Reviver #3 layers brandy, Maraschino, and Curacao—sans ice.

And W.J. Tarling decided to one-up them all. In his 1937 drink tome, Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, Tarling included four different revivers. The best of the bunch includes brandy, orange juice, lemon juice, and a champagne topper.

Another bubbly version of the dead man walking drink enters mid-century. A wonderful riff on the sticky sweet concoction is found in The Official Mixers Manual, written by Patrick Duffy in 1956. In a highball glass, Pernod, lemon juice and sparkling wine are poured over cubed ice—a true pick-me-up after a raucous night.

So, it’s clear from history, a Corpse Reviver is whatever you deem refreshing and restorative after a long night.

After you try the original recipe, listed below, feel free to create your own Corpse Reviver. Call it the Rise of the Corpse, the Last Reviver or simply, CR VII. Because, you can’t have enough iterations of a cult classic. May the breakfast cocktail force be with you.

Corpse Reviver 

Corpse Reviver

Photo by Vlady Nykulyak

Corpse Reviver 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 parts Cognac
  • 1 part Apple Brandy
  • 1 part Sweet Vermouth

Preparation: Pour ingredients into a shaker with ice; shake until cold. Pour into a coupe glass. (For Trader Vic’s Corpse Reviver cocktail garnish with a lemon twist).