A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 08, 2008
Vuelve a la Vida ("Back to Life” or “Return to Life")

"Vuelve a la Vida” ("Back to Life” or “Return to Life") is a ceviche cocktail that appears to have originated in Veracruz, Mexico. It contains various seafoods such as shrimp, octopus, oysters, crab, et al., with ketchup/tomato sauce/salsa, lime juice, onions, cilantro, and chile peppers. This “corpse reviver” (sometimes called “Levanta Muertos") is supposed to cure any hangover.

Vuelve al la Vida is now frequently served in Tex-Mex restaurants. The concoction is cited in English by at least 1962.

Wikipedia: Ceviche
Ceviche (also spelled as cebiche, seviche or cevice) is a form of citrus marinated seafood salad, popular in many Latin American countries, originating in the Viceroyalty of Peru. One theory suggests that it got its name from the Quechua “siwichi”. However, it is likely to be a cognate of another Spanish word, “escabeche” (marinade), derived from the Arabic term “sikbaj”. Another theory suggests that its name comes from the word Cebo, name given to the Corvina fish by black Peruvians.

The marinade used in ceviche is citrus based, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. This being said, all citrus will work. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which pickles or “cooks” the fish without heat. The result tastes more like a cooked dish and less like raw fish preparations such as Japanese sashimi. Traditional style ceviche was left up to 3 hours for marinade. Modern style ceviche usually has a very short marinating period. With the appropriate fish, it will marinate for as long as it takes to mix the ingredients, serve and carry to the table.

Let’s Talk About… from Jay Francis
Mexican Food and Taquerias in Houston
There is a traditional seafood cocktail from the state of Veracruz called, ”Vuelve a la Vida“, which translates as ‘return to life’. Various seafoods such as shrimp, octopus, oysters, etc. are served in a sauce made of ketchup or tomato sauce, orange juice, onions, cilantro, and chile peppers. 

Oh, Laredo! Tex-Mex Border Delights (quiz)
So you overindulged the night before--too much tequila and beer? One of the most trustworthy “recovery meals” is a large, ice-cold goblet of raw shrimp, crab, octopus, and oysters, marinated in lime juice and served with cilantro,red cocktail sauce and slices of avocado. This delight is known by what apt name?
Your Answer: [No Answer]
The correct answer was Vuelve a la Vida (Come Back to Life).

Long before sushi was introduced to our area, Tex-Mex cuisine used lime juice to marinate raw seafood to produce many different varieties of “ceviche.” These cold, refreshing seafood salads are wonderful! “Vuelve a la Vida” is possibly the most complex of the ceviches. 

Hugos Restaurant (Houston, TX)
Vuelve a la Vida – “return to life” with oysters, octopus, crab, shrimp and Red Snapper ~10. 

El Tapatio (Santa Ana, CA)
Combination of fresh Shrimp, Abalone, Octopus and Oysters

El Jacalito (Big Bear Valley, CA)
Vuelve a la Vida,
Shrimp, Octopus, Oysters and Abalone Cocktail $12.99

Las Palmas Mariachi Restaurant (Las Vegas, NV)
Served with onions, cilantro, cucumber, tomato, and a special cocktail juice.

Vuelve a la vida
Med......$ 10.50 Lg......$ 17.50

El Rincon De America (Reedley, CA)
Vuelve a la Vida $ 14.40
(Shrimp, abalone, octopus and crab) Camarones
Served with beans, rice and tortillas
Servidos con arroz, frijoles y tortillas

Lazo’s Tacos Restaurant (Chicago, IL)
coctel vuelve a la vida - combination cocktail: octopus shrimp, squid & oyster $12.95

Tres Hermanos (Milwaukee, WI)
Lobster, shrimp, crab, oysters, octopus and a special sauce.

El Burrito Mercado Restaurant (St. Paul, MN)
Vuelve a la Vida-"Back to Life” Seafood Cocktail
Shrimp, octopus, crab, calamari, oysters served in our Mexican cocktail sauce, pico de gallo and avocado.

Babalu (Minneapolis, MN)
EL BABALU “VUELVE a la VIDA” - $26.95
“ a seafood extravaganza, an absolute must for the honey-mooners...”

Isla Bonita (Greeley, CO)
Cocktail combination of shrimp, squid, octopus and oyster.
Combinacion de camaron, calamar y pulpo, puede ir con/sin ostion.

21 October 1962, Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV), pg. 6, col. 4:
Caldo tlapeno, which is a soup composed of chicken broth, chile, sliced avocado and chopped onions. It and its variations are called “corpse revivers” in Mexico.

A tall glass filled with layer after layer of raw seafoods liberally sprinkled with tabasco sauce and jiggers of the joy juice that did the dirty work in the first place. This is another “corpse reviver,” or levanta-muerto, and may also be known as a vuelva a la vida, or “return to life.”

Google Books
Mexico and Guatemala on $10 & $15 a Day
1979-1980 Edition
by Tom Brosnahan and Jane Kretchman
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
Pg. 36:
...Vuelve a la Vida, “Return to Life,” a seafood cocktail, for 60 pesos.

Google Books
Mexico 1983
by Florence Lemkowitz and Robert C. Fisher
Fisher Travel Guides
Pg. 67:
That’s why the enormous potpourri shellfish cocktail is nationally known as vuelve a la vida (return to life).

Google Books
The People’s Guide to RV Camping in Mexico
by Carl Franz and Lorena Havens
Santa Fe, NM: J. Muir Publications
Pg. 256:
While walking off a delicious concoction known as vuelve a la vida (return to life), Steve and I stumbled across a beach ankle-deep in seashells.

10 August 1990, Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram
Vuelva a la vida means return to life, and if anything could do it, this would. It was big, beautiful and a bargain at $7.75. You receive seven different ...

10 April 1992, Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, “Specialty of the House: Mexican Seafood Cocktails” by Lisa Kestler, Food, pg. 4:
The vuelve a la vida, which literally promises to “bring you back to life,” is an eye-opening combination of shrimp, oysters and octopus. It’s $6.50. 

Austin (TX) Chronicle (Best of Austin)
Seafood Cocktails: Eastside: Los Comales, Downtown: Marisco Grill (Critics Picks, Food & Drink, 1996)
Austin is a little land-locked for our seafood lovin’ tastes, but each of these joints serves up a long, cool Mexican-style coctel that truly satisfies our coastal cravings. Marisco Grill has a larger selection of seafood on the menu, featuring vuelve a la vida (return to life), a blend of sea-fare that usually includes oysters, shrimp, octopus and sometimes conch. Los Comales, which is a traditonal Norteño taqueria, serves a substantial coctel de camarones (shrimp cocktail) that has no problem holding its own on the menu heavy with meats of the four-legged variety.
Mariscos Seafood Grill, 211 E. Sixth, 474-7372; Los Comales Graciela, 2136 E. Seventh, 480-9358

Google Books
Mexico 97
by Fodor’s Travel
Pg. 336:
The ceviche is an Acapulco tradition, as is vuelve a la vida, an immense seafood cocktail that, as the name implies, is guaranteed to bring you “back to life.”

Google Groups: alt.food.mexican-cooking
Newsgroups: alt.food.mexican-cooking
From: (Victor M. Martinez)
Date: 1998/12/04
Subject: Vuelve a la vida (Seafood cocktail)

This is a wonderful cocktail whose name literally means “return to life”. It’s common throughout Mexico with minor variations.

9 oz cocktail shrimp, cooked
36 oysters, raw
5 oz conch, diced
3 Cups octopus, cooked and chopped
1/2 Cup white wine
1 onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 avocado
5 limes, juiced
1 Cup ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce (ie Tabasco or even better, Cholula), to taste
salt and pepper

Marinate the conch with the lime juice and salt for two hours. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Serve in individual cocktail glasses, garnish with avocado slices and serve with crackers.

Google Groups: alt.food.mexican-cooking
Newsgroups: alt.food.mexican-cooking
From: “L Hodge”
Date: 1998/12/04
Subject: Re: Vuelve a la vida (Seafood cocktail)

Great recipe Victor.

La Margarita at Market Square in San Antonio serves a wonderful version of this seafood cocktail (sans the conch and octopus).  Try it on their patio on a warm evening with a cold cerveza.  Heaven.

Google Groups: alt.food.mexican-cooking
Newsgroups: alt.food.mexican-cooking
From: (Victor M. Martinez)
Date: 1999/01/30
Subject: Re: Sonoran Seafood Paella

>:Salsa catsup has been around for a long time. (when was the last time you
>:lived in Mexico?). And FYI, the “vuelve a la vida” cocktail (common
>:throughout Mexico) *always* has ketchup in it.

Most of those recipes I know of don’t_use_catsup..but rather tomatoes (smashed in a molcojete(sp?) ) or sometimes red chile salsa. 

Google Groups: houston.eats
Newsgroups: houston.eats
From: (Jay P Francis)
Date: 2000/03/09
Subject: Eye Opener’s Tour- Awwww...You guys are the best

There is a traditional seafood cocktail from the state of Veracruz called, “Vuelve a la Vida”, which translates as ‘return to life’.  Various seafoods such as shrimp, octopus, oysters, etc. are served in a sauce made of ketchup or tomato sauce, orange juice, onions, cilantro, and chile peppers.

Google Groups: austin.food
Newsgroups: austin.food
From: “Victor M. Martinez, Jr.”
Date: Sat, 4 Aug 2001 08:43:28 -0500
Local: Sat, Aug 4 2001 8:43 am
Subject: Marisco Grill on Burnet

Had dinner at Marisco Grill on N. Burnet last night. We got chips and salsa as soon as we sat down. Salsa was very good and the chips were not greasy at all. I started with the Vuelve a la vida cocktail (shrimp, oysters, octopus, avocado, onion) which was very good. Much better than the cocktail I had at Curra’s the other week.

New York (NY) Times
RESTAURANTS; Veracruz Fusion Finds Its Way North
Published: October 10, 2001
Vuelve a la vida, a seafood cocktail, suffered from a murky tomato sauce, a little like diluted ketchup, that could not quite disguise the funky-tasting scallops.

Google Books
Romantic Mexico—The Image & Realities
by Boye Lafayette De Mente
Phoenix Books
Pg. 97:
The brave ( or the foolhardy) may want to try a special seafood/tequila cocktail that is popular in Veracruz. Called Vuelva a la Vida (Return to Life—also Levanta Muertos or Raise the Dead), it consisted of a tall glass layered with oysters, clams, tiny shrimp, and abalone; all drenched in hot sauce with an added dash of fresh lime juice followed by a jigger of tequila!

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
Authentic Mexican flavors come to life
ED MURRIETA; The News Tribune
Published: January 14th, 2005 12:01 AM
Vuelve a la Vida is also the name of the restaurant’s signature seafood cocktail ($8.95). I enjoyed its refreshing, salsa-like broth of lime juice, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado and cilantro. Octopus, oysters and shrimp were plentiful, but the scallops were dry and cracked.
Vuelve a la Vida (4 stars)
5310 Pacific Ave., Tacoma 253-473-7068
CUISINE: Mexican

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: Julian Vrieslander
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 04:11:17 GMT
Local: Wed, Aug 24 2005 11:11 pm
Subject: Re: Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

When CJ and I lived in Dallas, we liked to go to a Mexican restaurant called Calle Doce, in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, on 12th street (duh).  They had a wonderful seafood cocktail/concoction, which had all sorts of tasty things in it: shrimp, oysters, tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, etc.  The menu name was “vuelva a la vida” which translates as “return to life.” These dishes are supposed to have healthy restorative powers.  Worked for me.

6 March 2006, Galveston County (TX) Daily News, pg. B7, col. 1:
Vuelve a la Vida, a seafood mixture served in cocktail sauce, and Huachinango, fried red snapper.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Tuesday, January 08, 2008 • Permalink