Here we are, at the 75th cocktail of my Death & Co. project and the final recipe of the Classics section – the Zombie Cocktail!
History of the Zombie Cocktail
The Zombie cocktail was the original tiki drink, invented all the way back in 1934 by the legendary Donn the Beachcomber and started the trend of tiki restaurants opening all over the country. This drink is famous for it’s strength, and you need only look at the recipe below to see just how much booze is really in this thing; three ounces of regular proof liquor, and another ounce of overproof rum, making this essentially five full ounces of regular strength liquor. Even Donn limited customers to two of these drinks per visit, and even that would be crazy for most people given it’s a bit more than a third of a full bottle of alcohol. You really have to be careful with these because they don’t taste that strong thanks to the sugar, juice, and dilution from the crushed ice. They are easy to drink and the alcohol will sneak up on you – you’ve been warned!
Something so stealthily strong was the perfect drink to stick it to the recently defeated prohibitionists and played right into the media’s hand, which gleefully promoted Donn’s concoction as the “it” drink of its time. All this history is thanks to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s work on the subject, who also unearthed the original recipe after it was lost for decades after finding it in the notebook of former staff bartender from 1937. He wrote a full chapter on his hunt and eventual discovery of the recipe in book, Sippin’ Safari, and also has an abbreviated version of the story on his website. We all owe the bum a tremendous debt!
Death & Co.’s Zombie Cocktail: Not Quite the Original
After it took so much effort to restore the original Donn’s recipe to the world, I’m skeptical of anyone who messes with the spec, even the 6th St. bartenders. The big issue I have with this one on principle is the lack of grapefruit juice or cinnamon syrup, which were both key ingredients in Donn’s version. Death & Co. keeps the booze and lime the same, messes a little bit withe the Zombie mix, but then completely cuts Donn’s mix of 2:1 grapefruit and cinnamon syrup and replaces it with a 1:1 of vanilla syrup and allspice. You could say that keeps the element of spice but it leaves you with a lower acid drink. It’s still fantastic, but for something so famous I would have liked to see this in original form.
Rating: 5 / 5
Zombie Cocktail (adapted from Death & Co.)
- 1 1/2 oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Appleton V/X)
- 1 1/2 oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum (Ron del Barrilito 3-star)
- 1 oz Overproof Demerara Rum (Lemon Hart 151)
- 3/4 oz Zombie Mix*
- 1/2 oz Donn’s Spices #2**
- 3/4 oz Lime Juice
- 1 dash Angostura
*If you have a scale, Zombie Mix otherwise use 8 oz Velvet Falernum, 1 oz & 4 tsp of Grenadine, and 2 tsp of Absinthe. This makes 10 oz exactly of Mix, so you can approximate an ounce by cutting each ingredient by 1/10th. If you have a sensitive kitchen scale that supports grams, this is about 23g of Velvet Falernum, 5g of Grenadine and 1g of absinthe.
**This is simply equal parts vanilla syrup and allspice dram
Shake everything with a couple ice cubes, then strain into a tiki mug full of crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.