Ode to the Corpse Reviver No. 2: Version 2a

Despite its recent popularity, the Corpse Reviver No. 2 was once on the edge of extinction, as were most corpse revivers and classic cocktails in general. But thankfully, today, you can order a Corpse 2 at almost any craft cocktail bar, at least in Seattle, and you will receive basically the same delicious drink. Sure, subtle differences might crop up depending on a bartender's choices as far as the proportions, the garnish, the brand of gin or absinthe, whether to use Cocchi or Lillet, or even to rinse or not to rinse--the list is endless. But at the end of the day, those four main ingredients--gin, lemon juice, Lillet, and Cointreau--and that fabulous dash of absinthe that pulls it all together are what define the Corpse 2. That is, unless your bartender learned the Corpse Reviver from Trader Vic's Bartending Guide.

Somewhere along the line another corpse reviver entered the scene. It's not really that surprising, as versions of everything come and go. But this isn't just any old drink that would revive just any old corpse--this cocktail is identical to the Savoy Corpse Reviver No. 2 that we all know and love, except that it substitutes Swedish punsch for the Lillet. I can honestly say I never saw that coming.

Swedish punsch and Lillet are hardly alike. Even if you take into account the mystery that is the 1930s variation of Lillet that Harry Craddock used in his original recipe, the difference would still have been huge. Lillet is a wine-based aperitif that is mildly sweet and has a dominant citrus flavor. Swedish punsch, or at least the version I make at home, is made from a combination of rum and batavia arrack that has been infused with lemon and sweetened with tea syrup. Night and day, those two are.

The other ingredients in the two recipes are identical, even down to the equal proportions. The smidgen of absinthe is even there. As far as where this Corpse Reviver No. 2a came from, Erik Ellestad at Underhill-Lounge has some theories that sound very reasonable to me: he blames/thanks Trader Vic Bergeron.

Corpse Reviver No. 2a ( as adapted fromTrader Vic)

3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce Underhill punsch
1 dash absinthe

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Bellringer gin and Absinthe Verte de Fougerolles.

So let's cut to the chase already: what's different? The Corpse 2a is a tad sweeter and the Swedish punch definitely influences the overall flavor. But all in all, this libation is still well-balanced, refreshing, yummy, and very recognizable as a Corpse 2 variation. The tea notes, especially the tannins, stood out against the background of lemon and gin and played well alongside the tart, herbal flavors. The Cointreau seemed to play a larger role in the overall taste than it usually does in a Corpse 2, which is strange because the Lillet's orange notes are absent. The Corpse 2a is a pleasant change up from the norm that I would definitely recommend.


  1. Having tasted a few varieties of real Swedish Punsch, it does indeed share some similarities with Lillet. More so than the stuff I made via Erik's recipe. The real stuff is more subtle so the tea and spices are more under the radar.

    Haus Alpenz's import of Swedish Punsch should be on the market next month so perhaps revisiting the CR#2a when you get some would be a worthy experiment.

  2. The Swedish Punsch pre-dates Trader Vic. I first find it in my 1945 reprint of the 1941 Crosby Gaige's Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion.