Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Corpse Reviver #3

Last night, ridiculously monikered blizzard "Nemo" blustered through Boston and left a good couple of feet of snow behind. This morning, I found myself hoisting a shovel for a couple of hours, trying to make a dent in the drifts that had cozied up to the side or our house, obliterated our walkways, and buried our stairs. It is certainly an impressive sight, the snow. However, I fully oppose it.

My aching body - in an outcry against such heavy labor - opposes it. My mind, which looks grimly ahead to the inevitable quagmire of slush, opposes it. And my nature, inclined to drier and warmer climes, most certainly opposes it.

Therefore, I decided I needed reviving. And for that, I turned to a recipe I learned about at Boston's Eastern Standard. The Corpse Reviver #3 appears on their dessert menu, and when I happen to dine there, it is what I choose for dessert. It is a descendent of the Corpse Reviver and the Corpse Reviver #2, two "hair of the dog" drinks that are intended to counter the effects of a hangover. Coming, perhaps, from the ancient method of preventing rabies from a dog bite by putting some hair of the dog in the wound, the idea is that a touch of drink the morning after a drunken night will counter the hangover enough to get you through (and, presumably, started again).

According to Ebenezer Cobham Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898):
"In Scotland it is a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound will prevent evil consequences. Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine within 24 hours to soothe the nerves. 'If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day.'"
Corpse Revivers #1 and #2 appeared in Harry Craddock's 1930 Savoy Cocktail Handbook. The first is made of cognac, sweet vermouth, and apple brandy. Seems startlingly potent, perhaps, as a cure for crapulousness. The second iteration is made of gin, Lillet, lemon juice, and triple sec - with just a dash of absinthe. This seems to be the more popular version of the drink, and I can understand why it might be less offensive as the first line of attack against the hangover.

Corpse Reviver #3, however, is as appropriate as an aperitif or a nightcap as it might be as a cure the morning after. Its ingredients are brandy, white crème de menthe, and Fernet Branca - which was invented as a stomach medicine. It is bitter, aromatic, and herbal, and bitters are well known to settle the griping belly. The spirit is, incidentally, quite popular in Argentina. It was drunk instead of British whiskey during the Falklands war. Sometimes it is mixed with Coca Cola. Most palates will recoil at first, considering the intensity of its flavor. However, one grows accustomed to its pleasures as one might those of Campari.

Crème de menthe is also known to settle the stomach, and it is commonly found in the Stinger cocktail, which is an after-dinner drink made of crème de menthe and brandy.

With the sweetness of the brandy and crème de menthe, the Fernet is tempered adequately, resulting in a balanced, flavorful grown-up beverage of considerable depth. I have enjoyed them the morning after, and the night before, with no complaints.

On a side note, trying to find brandy the night of a blizzard was not easy, and I found myself shut out of many liquor stores that closed early. I finally stumbled into the one liquor store I routinely avoid, due to its exorbitant prices and its lousy selection. It is closest to my house, ironically, and least useful to me. This time, however, as I pointed to the one bottle of brandy I could see - Paul Masson, regrettably - and asked its price, fully expecting it to be $30, the proprietor suggested I would be better off with Greek brandy, Metaxa (at a reasonable $19). So I took him at his word, and it works fine in this mix. It is a bit sweeter, to these tastebuds, than French or Spanish brandies, but with the Fernet, it works.

The body of the Corpse Reviver #3 is heavy, succulent, and luxurious. Note that I tempered the ratios slightly to reduce the prevalence of the crème de menthe, since the Fernet supplies its own dose of mint as well.

Let's do this:

The Corpse Reviver #3
  • 1 oz brandy or cognac
  • 1 oz white crème de menthe
  • 1 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1 dash of Bitterman's Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Put all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very cold. Strain into a coupe and enjoy - and let it bring you back to life. Bottoms up!

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