Happy Hour History: The Corpse Reviver

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For as long as humans have consumed alcohol, they have been plagued by the hangover. Remedies abound — everything from greasy food to smoothies to salmon are said to alleviate symptoms — but there is still no magic bullet.

Seasoned drinkers, however, will maintain the best cure is to just keep drinking, also known as the hair of the dog. “Hair of the dog,” a colloquialism which is common in several European cultures, draws on the dubious scientific notion that “like treats like.” For instance, in Scotland it was believed that the ill effects of a dog bite could be cured by placing a few hairs of the offending dog on the wound.

An apocryphal poem attributed to Aristophanes attempts to substantiate this claim:

Take the hair, it’s well written,
Of the dog by which you’re bitten;
Work off one wine by his brother,
And one labour with another …
Cook with cook, and strife with strife:
Business with business, wife with wife.

It goes without saying, this doesn’t work, but let’s be honest: if you’re taking medical advice in couplet form, you probably think this guy knows what he’s talking about, too.


Despite its unlikely efficacy, the practice of continuing to drink after a long night of drinking persists. Somewhat less dubious science theorizes that, since hangovers are the first stage of alcohol withdrawal, taking more alcohol will alleviate the effects. Wonkier explanations posit that consuming alcohol while hungover delays the body’s metabolism of methanol, thereby providing a reprieve from the suffering.

Corpse Revivers, then, refer to a class of hair-of-the-dog cocktails designed to be consumed after a night of drinking. References to them first appear in writing in England around the 1860s. However, barman Harry Craddock popularized them in the 1930s when he included them in his Savoy Cocktail Handbook, and began serving them up to revelers recovering from the effects of poorly made Prohibition-era hooch.

The original Corpse Reviver — or Corpse Reviver No. 1 — is a stiff concoction that blends cognac, calvados, and sweet vermouth, and sounds like nothing I’d want to consume in the daylight hours, let alone after a night of hard drinking.

The more popular Corpse Reviver No. 2, however, is much better suited for diurnal quaffing. Refined and refreshing, the No. 2 will outshine any mimosa or Bloody Mary at any Sunday brunch.

Corpse Reviver No. 2 Recipe

1 oz. dry gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. fresh lemon juice

Directions: Wash a cocktail or coupe glass with a bit of absinthe and discard the excess. In a shaker, combine ingredients with ice, and shake for 20 seconds. Strain into the glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Caveat emptor: Craddock urged moderation, stating, “Four of these taken in swift succession will un-revive the corpse again.”

Enjoy while listening to this.

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