Many moons ago, but not too many, I was sitting on a bar stool at Rob Roy opposite guest bartender Jackie Patterson watching her measure and pour as a bartender is wont to do. When it was my turn, I ordered "bartender's choice" and told her I was looking for something refreshing. The sun was high in the sky, and a slight breeze could be seen fluttering the leaves on the trees lining the streets of Belltown; it was one of those perfect Spring days in Seattle. The kind of day that makes you almost believe we will actually have a summer. What I received was bright, citrusy and fizzy--indeed all essential elements of a refreshing beverage. Though I no longer remember all of the ingredients, what stood out to me was that the drink combined two ingredients I had never experienced in the same glass, Lillet and pisco. This pairing isn't mind-blowing and in no way requires a double-take or anything extreme like that. Lillet goes well with a lot of things. But it does match up extraordinarily well with pisco.
Only a couple of weeks before this Lillet-pisco revelation, I had been introduced to the Odd McIntyre, the Corpse 2's brandy-based cousin. So, seated at the bar in Rob Roy I had a sudden brainstorm--citrus, Lillet, pisco. Would pisco work in a Corpse Reviver No. 2? In my mind, the Corpse 2 is the ultimate Lillet drink, second only to the Vesper. It doesn't matter to me whether Cocchi is used instead of the softer Lillet, it's the thought that counts. No matter how you break it down, the inclusion of that orange-y aperitif is one of the defining elements of that drink. (Well, that and the absinthe rinse, but we'll save that for another post.) And if brandy could be swapped for the gin, why not pisco? After all, pisco is a type of unaged grape spirit that would be similar to an unaged brandy. Ever since that moment, I have been mildly obsessed with the Corpse 2.
As the onset of summer quickly filled up many of my weekends, it took me weeks to figure out the basic formulation for this drink. I tried to adhere to the original proportions, but the equal parts left the pisco buried under a weight of lemon juice. Bumping up both the Lillet and pisco really helped those flavors stand out more. The decisions were harder after. Absinthe rinse or no absinthe rinse. Or to put it another way, Corpse Reviver No. 2 or Odd McIntyre. After all besides the brandy substitution, the loss of the absinthe is the other difference between the two versions. In the end, I decided to keep the absinthe rinse, but something was still missing. Subbing lime juice for lemon was similarly tasty, but still incomplete. Going back to the drawing board, I started looking at other Corpse 2 variations for hints. The key was hidden in Zane Harris's Stone Fruit Sour, an excellent variation of the Corpse 2 that I found on Imbibe magazine's website. In that cocktail apricot brandy replaces the Cointreau, and peach bitters stand in for the absinthe. And it was those bitters that solved my pisco riddle.
1 ounce pisco
1 ounce Lillet
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1 dash peach bitters
1 dash absinthe
Shake ingredients except absinthe with ice. Strain into a chilled absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
Notes on Ingredients: I used Fee's peach bitters, Piscologia Pisco, and Absinthe Verte de Fougerolles.
I got yer bitter right here, pal.
3 weeks ago