Cocktails are cool!
After decades languishing under stuffy, grandfatherly reputations or forgotten aside from counterfeit sweet-tinis of all kinds, the classic cocktail has made a major comeback. A new breed of bartender—the mixologist—artfully crafts old standards with the finest ingredients, with freshly squeezed juices, custom infusions and new concoctions designed to delight the palate.
My name is Andy Romine, writer, visual effects artist, and booze nerd. From the moment I tasted my first real mixed drink, I was hooked. There’s nothing quite like the alchemy of a cocktail—the intriguing fragrance of the spirits, the delicate combination of flavors on the tongue; they are like real-life magic potions. Cocktails can seem fussy and mystifying, but it’s hard to beat the looks on your friends’ faces when they take a sip of a cocktail you made. My wife is trained as a chef and we host a lot of dinner parties. I always make the drinks.
When John and Patrick first asked me to write this column for The Functional Nerds, I was delighted—and then I panicked because I realized I didn’t even know where to start. The history, theory, and passion for cocktails has become quite a popular subject these days, and a lot of folks write and blog about them. Even me, though I’ve just gotten started.
So I promise to try and make this column a gentle, fun introduction to cocktails (and occasionally other quality adult beverages). In fact, I’m still learning a lot myself, so I’m looking forward to sharing my new discoveries with you as much as I am covering the basics.
Mixed drinks can seem daunting, but I promise that once you start, you’ll never settle for well drinks at the local watering hole again.
One small caveat: For those of you unused to imbibing this sort of drink, I urge caution. Your average cocktail contains between 3-4 oz. of alcohol and even one drink can be potent. Please enjoy your fine, handcrafted cocktails responsibly.
So, onto our first drink.
Like most of you, I’d been drinking mixed drinks for a long time—margaritas at the taco hut, whisky sours at the dive bars, Jack & Cokes around a campfire or at a cookout. And ugh, even a bad incident with a Long Island Iced Tea (but that’s for another column). Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying these drinks, though their principle utility seems to be getting drunk (especially with that Long Island Iced tea). There’s no real expectation of savoring a well-crafted drink.
So I thought we’d start where I started—with my first real cocktail—the Corpse Reviver # 2. (It’s also one of my favorite cocktail names!)
The Corpse Reviver # 2 was probably invented sometime around the turn of the 20th Century, and as you can guess from the name was only one iteration of a whole class of drinks. #2 seems to be the one that stuck around. While it’s intriguing to consider its use in reanimating the dead in some unholy science experiment, in truth it’s merely a sly reference to “the hair of the dog” maxim. Feeling a little less than yourself from too much partying last night? Try a Corpse Reviver and you’ll be back to yourself in no time. You get the picture.
(History Nerd: Cocktails actually began life as breakfast drinks designed just for that circumstance, but more on that another time.)
The #2 comes from the mind of famous barman Harry Craddock. Craddock is something of a legend in pre-Prohibition cocktail circles, and he’s responsible for creating or popularizing a lot of famous drinks. When prohibition came along, Craddock fled to England, where he became chief barman at London’s swanky Savoy Hotel. His book “The Savoy Cocktail Book” was one of the first mixology manuals, and is still in print today.
My friend Chuck made me a Corpse Reviver #2 during one of our first visits to his home. (To give you an idea about how serious he is about cocktails, he and his partner Wes print up their own menus for guests to peruse!) I chose the Corpse Reviver #2 because I’m a geek and it made me think of zombies. How could I resist?
Use fresh lemon juice to make this drink, you won’t regret it. I can’t stress how important (and easy) it is to use fresh juice in cocktails. Avoid mixes at all costs! The Corpse Reviver #2 is reminiscent of a margarita, which makes it a good starter cocktail. There are no odd or cloying flavors though, just a nice herbal, citrusy potion that balances sweet and sour very well.
The Corpse Reviver # 2 (recipe adapted from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails)
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz Cointreau
- 1 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 to 3 drops of absinthe or pastis (Herbsaint, Pernod, etc)
Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a stemless cherry at the bottom of the glass.
You should be able to find most of the ingredients in local stores or at least online. Lillet Blanc is an French aperitif wine that might be a little harder to find, but I urge you to seek it out. I’m not a fan of the bright red maraschino cherries (the process used to make them involves too many chemicals and food dyes for my taste) so I use brandied cherries instead.
I’d love to hear what you think of the Corpse Reviver #2. But go easy, for Craddock himself warned “Four taken in quick succession may unrevive the corpse again!”