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The Crimson Hour: Chasing Lazarus

Everyone needs a little draught of immortality sometimes. The Phillies got theirs over the last two weeks. Now you get yours.

AJ Burnett was just ahead of his time on the Phillies. This year everyone is undead.
AJ Burnett was just ahead of his time on the Phillies. This year everyone is undead.
Norm Hall/Getty Images

When fans' feet on the pavement quicken toward the gates, we cease to measure the length of the day with clocks, whose ticks and tocks now distend ever more noiselessly until we count beats and rhythms in pitches and swings. We frame periods in innings and recover a more intimate acquaintance with beginnings and endings, with the origin of finitude. This is the hour for hushed vitality, for precise attention, for active sensation—sight, sound, touch, but most of all smell and taste. This is the crimson hour.

I'm sorry I could not post a Crimson Hour last weekend. I had to attend to personal priorities. But this week I'm back, the column revived, the rumors of its death... sublated?

Just as this column has overcome its muted slumber, the Phillies team and players alike have appeared to revive over the last two weeks. The Phillies won 6 games consecutively and 8 of 11 before their current 4-game slide. As a result of such surprisingly competent baseballing, some fans and pundits averred that the Phillies season was no longer dead. Hey, they might compete for the second wild card! (No, not really. We'd better keep drinking.)

And Ryan Howard looks like a reasonable facsimile of the fearsome slugger from the second half of the last decade. In April he confirmed everyone's expectations that he has become more slug than slugger. In May he raised his all-fields power from the grave and advanced rapidly from a sub-.700 OPS to one over .800. Hitting for the season 20% above league average, Howard actually looks like a league average firstbaseman again... for now. As our popular culture shows us repeatedly and without cease, the undead always drive toward un-un-ing themselves.

And finally Chase Utley—the deadest of the dead—has undergone a Lazarus effect. He's 15 for his last 39 ABs with an OPS over .700 in May. Precisely how and why Utley has revived his season is a discussion for another article. But we can all agree that it's been a relief to see him on base nearly every game and picking up his share of extra base hits. We can only hope that Chase enjoys his resurrection more than Kazantzakis's Lazarus enjoyed his.

To celebrate these revivals—be they authentic or apparitious—I propose that we drink Corpse Revivers this weekend. After all, this season we need to relish even the uncertain, ephemeral, and mysterious without circumspection. As the name suggests, this family of cocktails was conceived to cure the common hangover. And like so many such cures, they will fail to alleviate the underlying cause but succeed at making one drunk, which might alleviate the symptoms—or, at any rate, replace one set of symptoms for another. Suffice to say, we shouldn't imbibe this drink at its original meal-pairing, breakfast.

The Corprse Reviver is not a single cocktail but a family of them. We know little of the family tree, but today at least 3 very different recipes exist. Corpse Reviver #1 has a cognac and brandy base. #3 or the Savory One has a brandy and crème-de-menthe base. (Careful with crème-de-menthe, by the way. It tends to make everything it touches taste like toothpaste. Great in grasshopper brownies though.) We will be making the Corpse Reviver #2, a gin-based drink, this weekend, which is the most popular recipe and one of my wife's favorites. (My wife is worried you all think she is a lush. I reassured her that you think nothing of the sort because you understand that "my wife" is the name I've given the ghosts in my Delirium Tremens induced hallucinations, much like Ivan's devil in Brothers K.)

While the Corpse Reviver will not cure your hangover, it nevertheless refreshes the palette, tasting almost like grapefruit juice—lightly sweet, lightly sour, but smooth because neither the alcohol in the gin nor the acid in the lemon juice takes the lead. If you mix one in the early evening after a long day of manual labor, you'll be pleased with how quickly you forget that adult bodies don't recover so well anymore.

Tools: Shaker, Strainer, Coupe or Martini Glass, Juicer, Paring Knife

Ingredients: Gin, Orange Liqueur, Lillet Blanc, Absinthe, Lemon, Orange

  1. Place Glass in freezer.
  2. Juice Lemon. Measure 1 oz.
  3. Fill Shaker with ice.
  4. Pour 1 oz Gin, 1 oz Orange Liqueur, 1 oz Lillet Blanc, 1 oz. strained Lemon juice, and dash of Absinthe into Shaker.
  5. Shake until metal is frigid.
  6. Remove Glass from freezer.
  7. Slice a portion of Orange Peel with Pairing Knife. Twist Peel and wipe along rim of Glass. Bend Peel in half and rest on Glass rim.
  8. Strain Shaker contents into Glass. Enjoy!

You can find Lillet Blanc in the fortified wines section of the liquor store, alongside the vermouths. If you keep it chilled, it can be a lovely aperitif all by itself. You can also replace the Lillet Blanc with Cocchi Americano, a similar fortified wine.

The absinthe is also interchangeable with other anise-flavored liqueurs such as Pernod, pastis, anisette, etc. I myself keep Pernod on the bar. In the recipe above I have directed you to add the Absinthe directly to the cocktail mixture. However, the anise liqueur is there more for the nose than the tongue. So, professional bartenders usually rinse the glass with Absinthe rather than mix it into the cocktail. That is to say, they pour some Absinthe into the glass, swirl it around to coat the sides, and dump the excess. I don't rinse glasses because I refuse to treat most of my bottle of Pernod as refuse-in-waiting.

And finally, if you would rather not slice an orange peel, a maraschino cherry is also a suitable, albeit less aromatic. Good cocktails are as much as pleasure of the nose as they are a pleasure of the tongue. Indeed, by engaging the entire palette in this way, cocktails encourage calmness, patience, and savoring, much like a Rothko or Mondrian painting. So, I encourage the orange peel. But at-home cocktail-making inevitably calls for short-cuts and compromises.

And now a toast:

Whether we are seeing a dead-cat bounce or a mean-regression approximator, let's revel in revival unless Sandberg turns out to be the doctor in Lovercraft's Reanimator.