Anyone for a Corpse Reviver?
After years of neglect, the cocktail is making a comeback.
Drinks that have been forgotten for decades, like the Harvey Wallbanger, the Black Russian and the Rusty Nail are being discovered by a new generation of drinkers, who are starting to appreciate the joys of a perfectly mixed cocktail.
The last cocktail I ordered was at the bar of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. I asked the bartender for a Corpse Reviver – a somewhat obscure concoction created in1930 by Harry Craddock, head bartender at London’s Savoy Hotel, as a hangover cure.
My order caused some consternation among the Japanese staff. But after a quick back office conference and a flick through a recipe book, the head bartender, with a broad grin on his face, proudly presented me with a Corpse Reviver. He clearly was not going to allow a foreign devil to get the better of him.
American Joe Carlin, author of Cocktails: A Global History, believes the cocktail is the most civilizing beverage on the planet.
What exactly is a cocktail? It’s an alcoholic mixed drink containing three or more ingredients, at least one of which must be a spirit. A cocktail is a drink that can come with eye catching color. It can be long, short, bitter or sweet.
The cocktail is generally thought to be an American invention, but its roots stretch back to 18th century England. The first published reference to the cocktail appeared in the Morning Post and Gazetteer in London in 1798. The first reference in the US was in The Farmer’s Cabinet in 1803.
Cocktails are making a comeback
But it was in America that the popularity of the cocktail surged, thanks in part through the work of Jerry Thomas, a Connecticut native who in 1862 wrote the first book to contain a selection of cocktail recipes. Historians have gone so far as to call the American the father of modern bartending, but he actually worked in London prior to penning this pioneering tome.
Few drinks have followed the trajectory of the cocktail – from its mysterious origins, its heady 19th century rise, its survival during American prohibition, to wartime pleasure followed by … years of neglect.
So why the renaissance of the cocktail? One British bartender believes it’s a return to flavor. “People are looking to savor tastes and appreciate the harmonies between flavors,” he said.
Television has also played a significant role in the new interest in cocktails. First with Sex in the City with the Cosmopolitan. And then Mad Men with the Classic Martini and the Bloody Mary. Both series introduced a whole new generation of drinkers to the fabulous world of the cocktail.
Ladies awaiting their drinks in a 1930s London cocktail bar
Many of the recipes and fascination with cocktails stretch back to the prohibition era in the US from 1920 to1933. Popular drinks during that period included the Manhattan, White Lady, Monkey Gland, Old Fashioned and, perhaps the most celebrated of them all, the Sidecar.
What about the Philippines? Is the cocktail making a comeback?
A bartender putting the finishing touches to a cocktail
According to the Peninsula Hotel, interest in cocktails among its clientele has never waned.
“Our guests are definitely interested in cocktails, especially our female clientele, who have a preference for fruity and sweet drinks and a lot of our cocktails are exactly these. They would rather have a cocktail over a beer, strong spirits or even wine,” said Assistant Food & Beverage Manager Adam Lifshitz.
He added that the Pen even has a bar, the Salon de Ning, dedicated to cocktails and it’s very popular.
Clearly the cocktail is here to stay.
As for the Corpse Reviver, I could not find a bartender familiar with this strange brew so here’s the recipe: two parts cognac, one part calvados (apple brandy) and one part sweet vermouth.
And the taste? Bloody awful, but it’s should revive any corpse.