Absinthe and the Corpse Reviver











In 1930, the legendary bartender Harry Craddock prescribed a popular cure for revellers who stumbled into London’s Savoy Hotel for breakfast and complained of throbbing hangovers. Craddock had fled Prohibition in the States in 1920 and found work at the American Bar in the Savoy, and he knew a thing or two about the ailments of his customers. To ease their pain, he invented a classic cocktail with an unforgettable name—Corpse Reviver #2. Then he published the recipe in a book that bartenders still cherish today: The Savoy Cocktail Book.

This cocktail is a particular favorite of mine—with its pallid greenish hue, its ingenuous blending of slightly tart ingredients, and a name guaranteed to warm the heart of any archaeology writer. But how wise is it to down a drink whose ingredient list includes absinthe, a herbal concoction first blended by a French physician in 1789 as a tonic and later condemned and outlawed by legislators in Europe and the United States as a poisonous social evil? Absinthe, after all, contains oil of wormwood, Artemesia absinthium. Its active ingredient, thujone, is a known natural insecticide.

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