The Zombie is made with various fruit juices, liqueurs and rums. It first appeared around 1934 , invented by Donn Beach of the Don the Beachcomber’s restaurant in Hollywood. It didn’t become popular until 1939 during the New York World’s Fair, however. Now it’s a popular tiki cocktail because of the rum and fruit juices in it. And, it’s one of the most powerful cocktails you can make.
The first Zombie cocktail was originally made to help alleviate a customer’s hangover so that he could attend a business meeting. However, the drink contained so much alcohol that the customer returned two days later, complaining that the drink “turned him into a zombie” for the entirety of his trip. And, just like that, the drink got it’s name, and the staff at the bar learned to cut customers off after just two of these potent drinks.
So, what’s in it that makes it so potent? The original recipe called for three kinds of rum, falernum, Angostura bitters, grenadine, Pernod, and a concoction of grapefruit juice and cinnamon syrup that was referred to as “Don’s Mix”. That’s a lot of alcohol, and it’s no wonder that the customer came back saying that it turned him into a zombie!
The bartending scene was very competitive when the Zombie was made, so Donn Beach wrote his recipes in code so that people couldn’t easily steal them. It was great for business, but it makes it a little hard to re-create his drinks today. Because of this, there are now a variety of ways to make the drink. It can have a completely different flavor from bartender to bartender. And, how it tastes depends largely on how it’s made and what types of juice and alcohol are used in its ingredients. Here is a list of the best Zombie cocktails:
l Dale Degroff’s Zombie Cocktail (1 oz. light rum, 1 oz. dark rum, 1 oz. orange curacao liqueur, 1/2 oz. lemon juice, 1/2 oz. lime juice, 1 1/2 oz. orange juice, 1 1/2 oz. passion fruit puree, 1/4 oz. grenadine, 1/2 oz. 151 dark rum, 2 dashes Angostura bitters)
DIRECTIONS: Add all ingredients except 151 rum into shaker with ice and shake. Strain into large glass with ice. Float 151 rum on top. Garnish with fruit and mint.
Although the ingredients list for this cocktail is quite long, it’s not complicated to make. The combination of citrus and tropical fruits with the various alcohols make it easy to drink. However, it’s pretty potent.
l Gary Regan’s Zombie No 2 (1 oz. dark rum, 1 1/2 oz. anejo rum, 1 1/2 oz. light rum, 3/4 oz. applejack, 3/4 oz. papaya nectar, 3/4 oz. pineapple juice, 1 oz. lime juice, 1/2 oz. simple syrup)
DIRECTIONS: Put all ingredients into shaker with ice and shake. Pour into glass. Float with 151 rum. Garnish with cherry, pineapple spear and mint.
With three different types of rum, and applejack, there’s really no question that this drink will “zombify” you. It will be very easy to drink, but you probably shouldn’t drink more than one. (Two if you’re really indulging!) This cocktail is 25% ABV or 50 proof, so it packs a punch.
l Zombie Cocktail from New York’s Jeckyll and Hyde Club (1 oz. light rum, 1 oz. dark rum, 1 oz. apricot liquor, 2 oz. orange juice, 1 dash lime bitters, 1 handful ice, 1 oz. Bacardi 151 rum)
DIRECTIONS: Add all ingredients, except 151 rum, in shaker and shake. Pour into glass with ice, top with 151 rum and garnish with orange slice and cherry.
This is one of the club’s most popular drinks, with good reason. It’s fruity and tasty, while also having enough alcohol content that you’ll only have to buy one. The shot of Bacardi 151 is floated on top, giving it an extra, unexpected kick.
l Zombie Cocktail from mixthatdrink.com (1 oz. white rum, 1 oz. golden rum, 1 oz. dark rum, 1 oz. apricot brandy, 1 oz. pineapple juice, 1 oz. papaya juice, 1/2 oz. 151- proof rum, splash grenadine)
DIRECTIONS: Add all ingredients. except 151 rum, into shaker and shake. Pour mixture in glass and float 151 rum over the top of it.
This recipe is made unique with the addition of apricot brandy, which adds even more fruity flavor. It also adds to the theme of being easy to drink, fruity and delicious without hinting that there’s a ton of alcohol in it. This recipe also says that you can light your Zombie cocktail on fire after you float some 151-proof rum on the top of it, which gives it a different type of flavor.
l I.B.A. Hot Zombie (lime juice, unsweetened pineapple juice, bitters, heavily bodied rum, gold label rum, white label rum, apricot flavored brandy, papaya juice)
This interesting take on the Zombie cocktail is served hot. This particular recipe was outlined in the Catering Industry Employee (CIE) journal. So, if you’re looking for an adventurous way to drink the Zombie, this is the recipe you’re looking for.
l Zombie Cocktail by TheLittleEpicurean (1 oz. aged or golden rum, 1 3/4 oz. spiced rum, 3/4 oz. John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum liqueur, 1 oz. cinnamon syrup, 1 1/2 oz. pineapple juice, 1/2 oz. orange juice, 3/4 oz. lime juice, 1/4 oz. grenadine syrup)
DIRECTIONS: Add all ingredients in mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into glass with ice. Garnish with marischino cherries, orange slice and fresh mint.
This cocktail is made more interesting with the falernum liqueur. Falernum is a syrup that adds a spiciness to tiki-style drinks. It’s usually just the syrup, but this recipe calls for an alcoholic version, which ups the alcohol content even more.
l White Zombie (1 oz. white rum, 1 oz. overproof gin, 1 oz. pisco, .75 oz. lime juice, .5 oz. falernum, .5 oz. passion fruit syrup, .5 oz. Kalani coconut liqueur, .5 oz. grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup, a couple of dashes of absinthe)
DIRECTIONS: Add all ingredients to shaker with ice and shake. Strain into large glass over crushed ice. Garnish with mint, an orange wheel and cocktail umbrella.
No, this cocktail isn’t named after the metal band. It’s named after the 1932 horror movie. It’s a variation of the Zombie cocktail made entirely from white liquors. It keeps with the zombie’s theme of packing an alcoholic punch, but uses grapefruit juice, rather than papaya, giving it a slightly different and more tart flavor.
l Zombie Pyre (1 oz. Abuelo Anejo rum, 1 oz. Denizen Merchant’s Reserve rum, 1 oz. Smith & Cross rum, .75 oz. mango puree, .25 oz. grapefruit syrup, .5 oz. Tawny Port syrup, .25 oz. zucca, .5 oz. orange juice, .75 oz. lime juice, 2 dashes bitters, 2 dashes absinthe)
DIRECTIONS: Add ingredients in shaker with crushed ice and shake. Pour into hurricane glass and fill the rest of the way up with ice. Add another splash of bitters, mint and cherries to garnish. Place a hollowed- out lime half on the ice in such a way that it won’t tip over. Fill with 151 proof rum and light on fire with a long lighter.
This is a very interesting variation of the Zombie cocktail, created by Lauren Hinkle and Cera Grindstaff at Navy Strength, a tiki-cocktail bar in Seattle. It starts off with 3 different types of rum being layered in the bottom, topped with absinthe, which is enough to pack an alcoholic punch. Then there’s zucca, which is made from rhubarb, and port syrup, both of which give it a dark color. It’s got more of a velvety texture than the original Zombie cocktail, and it’s got a different flavor, but it’s just as strong as its predecessor.
No matter which variation of the Zombie cocktail you choose, you’ll be thankful that the ice in it serves to dilute the alcohol a bit. It’s a recipe that’s very versatile, so you can put pretty much any type of fruit juice in it, or add your choice of alcohol to it. However, if you’re going to add alcohol, it’s a good idea to cut some from the recipe, as well.