The weekend before Halloween — when vampires, zombies, and happy Giants fans wandered the city streets after dark — presented the perfect opportunity to hop on a bar stool at Revival Bar & Kitchen on Shattuck Avenue and delve into the renaissance of the Corpse Reviver.
The evening didn’t start off with the intention to dig up old recipes. The Silk Road Sour was a more appealing choice on the cocktail menu, promising a silky, fragrant, citrusy libation. Its complex flavors—mandarin silk tea infused bourbon, with citrus and cane sugar—included a hint of vanilla. A pleasant nightcap to end an evening of jazz and dinner with a friend in downtown Berkeley.
Revival was busy on that Saturday night. Patrons lined both bars plus the smaller kitchen bar at the end of the room. Those looking for more than a nightcap were seated at tables in the well of the restaurant. High ceilings, slowly rotating fans, draped fabric and a necklace of lights makes the room feel both spacious and intimate. Behind the bar, tall shelves display bottles of all sizes and shapes; and, chalked on a blackboard, the words, “Thoughtful, modern artisan cocktails and food.”
What does this actually mean? We ask Justin the bartender for illumination. And Justin introduces us to the Corpse Reviver, Revival style.
The Corpse Reviver and its ilk have been around for over 100 years. They tend to be seen as “hair of the dog” cocktails, the type of thing people with pounding headaches quietly plead for after a night of excessive imbibing.
The ingredients are fairly standard: 2 parts cognac, 1 part Calvados or equivalent apple brandy, and 1 part sweet vermouth, served straight up. Another variation, known as Corpse Reviver 2, contained equal parts gin, lemon juice, triple sec, Lillet Blanc (a wine-based aperitif with some added sweetness and hints of citrus), and the essential dash of absinthe. As Harry Craddock, the much-quoted author of The Savoy Cocktail Handbook (circa 1930), once cautioned, “Four of these will unrevive the corpse.”
Resurrections of the Corpse Reviver appear on the menus of several local bars in the East Bay. Justin’s updated interpretation is called the Nordic Reviver, featuring aquavit and Swedish punsch. Gesturing to the array of bottles behind him, he says, “With such a diverse bar, you can do anything you want.” But when it comes to creating new drinks, “Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.” This one definitely falls into the former category. Skoal!
The Drinks: The Silk Road Sour, a silky, fragrant, citrusy libation, and The Corpse Reviver with a (Nordic) twist.
The Crowd: Date night casual.
The Mood: Celebratory.
Behind the Bar: Justin “I can do anything you want” the experimenter.
When to go: Pre- and post-theater, concert and movie if you’re looking for dinner, a bite or simply a nightcap
The Deets: Revival Bar& Kitchen, 2102 Shattuck Avenue, downtown Berkeley.
Risa Nye, aka Ms. Barstool, is a freelance writer based in Oakland. She writes the blog Zero to Sixty and Beyond.