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Self-Medication and the Pandemic: 1918-19 Flu Edition


Lots of gems of self-medication here:

It was a similar scene a century ago when Spanish flu ravaged the globe and the panicked masses turned to alcohol – as well as onions and opium – to ward off the disease. In her book Pandemic 1918: Eyewitness Accounts from the Greatest Medical Holocaust in Modern History, academic Catharine Arnold reports sales of whisky, a popular home remedy for colds and flu, soared during the outbreak. And in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, “One brave soul… recommended 14 straight gins in quick succession as a cure for Spanish flu.”

Others took a more sophisticated tack. London’s Savoy Hotel reputedly created the modern version of the corpse reviver during the pandemic. Versions of the cocktail had been recorded since the mid-19th century, but The Savoy wrote the definitive recipe using Cognac, Calvados apple brandy and sweet vermouth. Simply stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel (umbrella optional). The name referenced its powers as a hangover tonic rather than anything flu related, but corpse reviver proved a darkly apt title for the times. The Savoy Cocktail Book published in 1930 recommends its consumption before 11am “or whenever steam or energy is needed”.

The gin cure is sure to never go bad.

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