Recipe Comparison – Corpse Reviver #2

Corpse Reviver #2

Little gives me more pleasure than extracting dusty, unappreciated bottles from my liquor cabinet and putting them through the gauntlet. I’d bet many of you have a mostly-filled bottle of Lillet Blanc hibernating amongst more frequented spirits. It comes out a few times a year, brings smiles to onlookers, and then resumes napping, awaiting a grand return. For me, that royal awakening comes in the form of the Corpse Reviver. Recipe number two to be exact.

It has been a long time since a recipe comparison has made its way onto the pages of Kaiser Penguin. Too long. Expect more in the coming months.

Let’s start off with the traditional:

Dr. Cocktail (and countless others)

  • 3/4oz gin (used Plymouth)
  • 3/4oz Lillet blanc
  • 3/4oz Cointreau
  • 3/4oz lemon juice
  • 1 drop pastis (used Herbsaint)

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Ted Haigh

This potion is a near-perfect balance of sweet and tart with lemon and orange dancing on your tongue. My only complaint is that the pastis is nearly undetectable. Up it from 1 drop to 4 or 5 and you have a symphony. The gin plays oboe and the pastis delicately pings the triangle. It’s a wonder.

Dale DeGroff

  • 1oz gin
  • 1/2oz Lillet blanc
  • 1/2oz Cointreau
  • 3/4oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash pastis

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Craft of the Cocktail, Dale DeGroff

I was surprised by this one; I expected to really like it, but the balance just couldn’t compare with the previous entry. The gin was too pronounced and the pastis a bit more than an accent; the Lillet was nearly 100% buried under all this weight.

Miracle (Cocktail DB)

  • 3/4oz gin
  • 3/4oz Lillet blanc
  • 1/2oz Cointreau
  • 1/2oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash pastis

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Internet Cocktail Database

This is the sweetest of the bunch, but the pastis works so well with the Lillet. I didn’t expect such balance; picking between the recipe with equal portions and this one is going to be a challenge.

By this point in the recipe comparison, I determined that around 8 drops of pastis was key. This will surely vary by brand, whether you’re using real absinthe, and personal taste.

I wasn’t exactly sure why the Miracle recipe seemed more balanced than the first. Dr. Cocktail’s version, while delicious, was a little tart. I turned to Erik, the godfather of the Savoy Cocktail book and overall encyclopedia of cocktail knowledge, from Underhill Lounge and he brought it all together for me. Lillet was reformulated in the 80s to be fresher, fruitier, and less bitter. This explains why the lemon and cointreau are so prominent in the equal proportions recipes.

I did a bit of tweaking and came up with a new ratio that I think even trumps the Miracle recipe.

Corpse Reviver #2, KP Style

  • 1 1/4oz gin
  • 1 1/4oz Lillet blanc
  • 1oz Cointreau
  • 1oz lemon juice
  • 8 drops pastis

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Kaiser Penguin, Rick Stutz

Another Lillet Recipe

In search of other Lillet recipes, I came across this thread with a bunch of great Lillet receipts. I couldn’t resist trying the following one first, especially since fellow Tales panelist Chuck Taggert, from the Gumbo Pages, posted it.

Culross Cocktail

  • 1oz Lillet blanc
  • 1oz light Puerto Rican rum
  • 1oz apricot brandy
  • 3/4oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Internet Cocktail Database

Another Corpse Reviver variant I found in Trader Vic’s Bartenders Guide replaced the Lillet with Swedish punch, which sadly, I’ve been unable to find. If anyone tries it out, let me know.

KP Questions

  1. What’s your favorite version of the Corpse Reviver #2?
  2. Post your favorite Lillet recipes too!

29 Responses to “Recipe Comparison – Corpse Reviver #2”

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29 Comments to “ Recipe Comparison – Corpse Reviver #2”
  1. Don’t forget that ol’ Chocolate Choo-Choo, the 20th Century!

    1.25 gin, 3/4 Creme de Cacao (white), 3/4 Lillet Blanc, 3/4 Lemon

    That and the Corpse Reviver #2 are the only things off the top of my head that use Lillet Blanc, oh, and an O.E. (check cocktaildb… basically a martini w/Lillet). Lillet is so lovely though, it’s worth taking some time to sip in a chilled glass.

    Swedish Punsch in the TVBG, eh? I’ve got some Batavia Arrack I haven’t used yet… I’ll have to throw some Punsch together sometime soon and let you know!

  2. anitaNo Gravatar says:

    Our favorite CR#2 is identical the first recipe you list: http://marriedwithdinner.com/2006/10/27/dotw-corpse-reviver-2/
    If you a pastis-soaked cherry as garnish (in place of the traditional maraschino) you get that extra hit you’re looking for.

    As far as Lillet goes, here are two drastically different options:
    The Fashionably Lillet: http://marriedwithdinner.com/2007/09/14/dotw-fashionably-lillet/
    The Vesper: http://marriedwithdinner.com/2006/11/30/dotw-the-vesper/

    We had a drink on Monday at our favorite restaurant that includes Lillet and bourbon. We need to do some tinkering to get the proportions rigth, but I suspect we’ll be publishing it soon.

  3. The Swedish Punsch thing is interesting.

    The first time it shows up for me is in the Beard edited version of Patrick Gavin Duffy’s “Official Mixer’s Manual”.

    Duffy himself, in the original 1934 edition, does not call for Swedish Punsch, going with the traditional Kina Lillet.

    The most useful thing about that (and a couple other small recipe differences) is that it gives you a clear indication where the recipe came from in a volume of cocktails. Any author who calls Swedish Punsch is probably using a later edition of Duffy (or any of the many other authors who reprinted Duffy’s recipes) as source material.

    It’s interesting with Swedish Punsch, but rather sweet.

    Also, if you can find Cocchi Americano Aperitivo, some folks have done a side by side with vintage Kina Lillet, and feel it is as close as you are likely going to get. Aside from new recipes made with modern Lillet Blanc in mind, I have yet to find a single classic cocktail that isn’t significantly better with the Americano Aperitivo.

  4. Love the picture, by the way!

  5. After I first received Doc’s book, “Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails,” as a gift, I and my beloved developed a bit of a Sunday Corpse Reviver #2 tradition. Since I like pastis very much but Maggie is much less a fan, the compromise I found worked best was a light wash of the glass with a dash of Henri Bardouin Pastis, one of the most herbaceous pastises you can buy. The extra jolt you like remains, but it’s a more balanced herbal flavour instead of one that’s stongly anise-led.

    And for what it’s worth, I’ll echo Anita’s endorsement of the Vesper. A wonderful drink, that!

  6. MartyNo Gravatar says:

    Other than with regards to bitters, cocktaildb quantifies a “dash” as a 1/4tsp.

    And…cocktaildb’s recipe for the Corpse Reviver #2 actually calls for “2 drops pastis (1 dash).”

    If you measure this amount of pastis (1/4 tsp), and use cocktaildb’s recipe, I find it to be the perfect balance.

    Hope that helps,


  7. AndyNo Gravatar says:

    If you give the Culross a try, instead of using an apricot liqueur like Apry, try it with an apricot eau-de-vie like barak palinka (or a better one if you can find it), and reduce the lemon to 1/4 oz or so. The floral notes of a good, dry white rum and the funkiness of the eau de vie are a remarkable combination.

  8. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    I’m increasingly inclined to make Martinis with Lillet. (And I heartily recommend my most recently acquired gin, Bluecoat, for gin Martinis.)

    I’m a big fan of both Vesper and Twentieth Century. I cut the cacao in the latter to 1/2 oz and bump the gin to 2 oz. As Doc says, “an ethereal sense of chocolate.”

  9. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Blair, The 20th Century is a fine concoction. Any suggestion on a brand of creme de cacao? Unfortunately, the local store only carries brands fit for frat parties. I may be able to special order something. I checked the catalog, and it looks like my only bet is Marie Brizard.

    Anita, The Fashionably Lillet is a fine drink indeed! The Vesper has been met with mixed reviews on my tongue. It does contain that abysmal spirit… I’d love to hear the bourbon drink once you have a working recipe!

    Erik, I’ve never even heard of Cocchi Americano Aperitivo… could you give us a little background on it?

    Stephen, I point you to an earlier post (look in the comments) where I suggest to Dr. Bamboo how to get over his aversion to anise-flavored spirits. It really works; it’s not easy, but it works.

    Marty, I’ve been amazed to hear lately how many people measure dashes. Am I some oafish caveman for not doing so?

    Andy, Thanks for the tip; more encouragement to order from Haus Alpenz comes every minute.

    Rowen, You’ve brought me joy with the mention of Bluecoat. It’s one of the only things PA does right when it comes to spirits! What else do you like it in? Isn’t it a bit strange… but in a good way?

  10. Rick,

    I wish I had an excellent recommendation, but I’m afraid I don’t. BOLS or Dekuyper do just fine, but the BOLS, if the pour is just a bit too much, can lend a “tootsie roll” note to the drink.

    I’ve actually got a home-batch a brewin’ now, which I’ll be finishing up sometime this week. I’ll let you know how it goes and post the recipe if it works.

    Oh, and Bluecoat… haven’t tried in much yet, because it’s just so damned good straight, and I’ve only got the one bottle. They brought it here for the distillers festival, and then it went away…

  11. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Blair, I’m a bit frightened by your first statement :) Don’t worry about the Bluecoat; I’d be happy to ship you some “books” anytime you need some new ones …

  12. I admit I have no Lillet. But I’m such a fan of pastis I may have to pick some Lillet up just to try this Corpse Reviver!

  13. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    I do Twentieth Century with Marie Brizard, and think it a fine choice.

    Funny you should ask about Bluecoat. Like Blair, I’m reluctant to get too wild with it cuz it’s so fine. I haven’t done anything but Martinis and variations. I especially liked (as did my friends):

    1 1/2 oz Bluecoat gin
    1/2 oz Lillet blanc
    1/4 oz Grand Marnier
    2 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s if you can, though I’ve used Fee Bros with good results too)
    Orange twist or stuffed olive (really like the olive)

    Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Swings the jinx away.

    Bluecoat is definitely different. I’ll have to think more about how, but it has lots of personality and charm in a well brought up way.

  14. can i just say how much i love the recipe comparison posts. i do the dr. cocktail version and have for a long time at the bar. interestingly enough, the pastis, even in minute amounts, is the make it or break it point. think next sunday i’ll have to do the recipe comparison myself (gonna be a slow night in the bar with the game on).

    great piece on a great drink


  15. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Rowen, What cocktails have you tried Bluecoat in that didn’t work?

    Lady Amalthea, Let me know when you pick up the Lillet what you think.

    Keith, Thanks for the kind words. I’ll be very interested to hear your own comparison results!

  16. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    I haven’t tried any but Martini variations for Bluecoat, and all have worked. ;-) I guess I’m just a little besotted with the purity of it, and now see no reason not to try it in a Negroni or a Bronx. So I will, and duly report back.

  17. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    Well, I just used Bluecoat in Corpse Reviver #2 — the KP recipe — and it’s great. Better living with Bluecoat and KP.

  18. Dr. BambooNo Gravatar says:

    Yikes…this makes me realize I need to get more cocktail guides! I’ve only tried the Dr. Cocktail version, but I love it dearly.

    Count me among the Vesper fans too.

  19. MartinNo Gravatar says:

    Off topic:

    Who else saw Dr. Cocktail himself make a cameo in the movie “Superbad?”

  20. Here’s the Lillet timeline from their website:

    1872 Company founded
    1887 Lillet formula created
    1895 Lillet launched in Bordeaux
    1895 In the US and West Indies “Lillet Export Double Quinine” marketed as a tonic wine
    1909 Two products available in Europe, Kina Lillet and Sauternes Lillet
    1920 “Lillet Dry” created and introduced in England, “to suit English tastes, especially when mixed with gin.”
    1962 Lillet Rouge created
    1985-86 Lillet modernized its manufacturing facilities and Lillet Blanc reformulated, “…fresher, fruitier, less syrupy, less bitter…”

    My impression is the Kina Lillet was phased out and that Lillet Blanc was, more or less, the Lillet Dry created to suit English tastes and mix well with gin.

    There’s some controversy about what the proper Lillet is to use in a Vesper. I believe it was Graham Greene who maintained it was a typo that Fleming called for Kina Lillet in a Vesper, saying it made the cocktail far too bitter. I’m a bitter guy, and I like a little quinine zip in my Vesper. Plus, Greene was a complete David Embury acolyte, so anything that wasn’t 90% pure booze probably didn’t trip his trigger.

    What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on that “Lillet Export Double Quinine” from the 19th century!

  21. VidiotNo Gravatar says:

    I like Chuck Taggart’s recipe, which is functionally the same as the CocktailDB recipe, but with the pastis upped to 2 dashes instead of one drop.

    And while I’m pimping my co-author’s excellent recipes, I’d be amiss if I didn’t link to the Lillet Tomlin, which I’ve not yet tried (but can’t wait to.) I also like Lillet by itself on the rocks with an orange slice, often with a dash of orange bitters (or Peychaud’s, which lends an interesting character.) I’ve done a bit of experimenting with splashing Lillet into a Martini, but I need to do some more tinkering on that one.

    And, on my most recent trip to the Pegu Club, I had a fantastic Twentieth-Century Cocktail, which St. John followed up with a Nineteenth-Century (Old Forester bourbon, Lillet Rouge, lemon juice, and crème de cacao), invented by Pegu Club alumnus (and Death & Co. honcho) Brian Miller. He also served a Twenty-First Century (invented by PDT’s Jim Meehan) to my friend: Tequila, crème de cacao, lemon, and a dash of Pernod. It was far smoother than I’d have expected, with a very long cacao-anise finish.

    I hadn’t realized that Lillet got reformulated — is this when it turned from Kina Lillet into modern Lillet, or were there actually two reformulations? How different was Kina Lillet from modern Lillet? and how does this affect the Vesper?

  22. BonzoGalNo Gravatar says:

    I had a very nice Vesper at Bourbon & Branch in SF last Friday. One of the loveliest things about it was the little drops of lemon oil from the peel that floated on the top.

  23. MartyNo Gravatar says:


    I certainly don’t think you’re an oafish caveman! It’s just always seemed to me that the ingredient involved in said “dash” always seemed to be something you didn’t want to over-use…

    …and well, I’m a geek.

  24. anavolenaNo Gravatar says:

    I gave the original a try, and found it to be a tad sweet. I went straight to your version for the second round, only to discover i was a tad shy on lemon juice, only had about 3/4 ounce.

    But i have to agree, dropping the sweetness of the cointreau and slightly upping the pastis really punched it up and gave the drink that “wow” i was expecting from all the press.

    next time i’ll try with the full oz of lemon juice to see how that balances, although i’ll need to move to a larger glass — your recipe barely fit in my cocktail glass. well, for the first couple sips, anyway!

  25. Doug WinshipNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll second the Vesper, and especially the Corpse Reviver #2 (Dr. Cocktail version, but with a couple of dashes, rather than a drop.) Incidentally, I really think that the recipe should REQUIRE a maraschino cherry. I hate the little rubber thingys, myself, and only used to keep them on hand for my Mother-In-Laws Manhattans, and for my 5 and 7-year-olds’ Kiddie Cocktails. But I threw one in because I saw it in a picture when I first tried it, and I just can’t quit them now. (Disclaimer: ONLY unquittable in CR#2s!

  26. FredericNo Gravatar says:

    Just like Vidiot described the 20th Century variation using bourbon instead of gin, a bartender at Drink here in Boston made me a bourbon version of the Corpse Reviver No. 2 with similar tasty results:


  27. […] am admittedly one of the last cocktail bloggers to write about this drink (here, anyway – and yes, I’m recycling my photo), but I’ve […]

  28. […] back-from-the-dead! We’re back! Let’s down a couple of Corpse Revivers in […]

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