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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Zombie: a cocktail to make you feel like the living dead

What would Halloween be without zombies? Zombie cocktails, that is. If there was ever a drink that could make you feel like one of the living dead, this is it. This is one cocktail where you should definitely limit yourself to just one to better preserve both your health and your dignity. The Zombie has been attributed to Don the Beachcomber, but some say the first zombie arose when a defrocked, Haitian priest (no offense intended to any group mentioned in this post) poured a Corpse Reviver cocktail into a fresh corpse. Furthermore, there is evidence that Zombies (cocktails, that is) can make you lose your memory. My memories of my Zombie drinking days are fuzzy; so it’s a good bet that I never stopped at just one, but now age and wisdom have both fallen upon me (age perhaps more than wisdom), so there is probably just one Zombie in the cards for me tonight. As the bottom of the glass approaches, however, I find myself noticing that all of the bottles are still open and waiting for me on the bar…

A Zombie cocktail is either a double or a triple, but who’s counting? Begin with rum: an ounce each of light, gold, and dark. (You may combine the light and gold into two ounces of one or the other if you’re short (on rum) or lazy, but you must have one or the other of those two and a dark rum (Gosling’s® is good).) Then a half ounce of Crème de Noyau (almond) or Amaretto (if that’s all you have). (Believe me, after you’ve drunk your Zombie you won’t care which one you used). The classic Zombie then calls for a half an ounce of Bacardi® 151 to be floated on top, but dark rum is an acceptable substitute and will moderate your intake of alcohol. As for the glass, size matters. The Zombie in the beautiful photograph featured here is in a Hurricane glass. That glass left little room for the addition of OJ and Dark Rum, so you can guess which one won out. If there was still to be room for the dark rum, only about ½ oz of OJ could be (and was) used (by now you have probably realized that the OJ is not perhaps viewed as an essential ingredient). You might want to use a Collins glass or another, larger, glass to make room for more OJ if you’re trying to increase your Vitamin-C intake.

Zombie Cocktail

1 oz Light Rum (your favorite)

1 oz Gold Rum (ditto)

1 oz Dark Rum (Goslings® works well)

½ oz Crème de Noyau (or Amaretto)

1 oz Lime Juice, freshly squeezed

1 tsp Simple syrup (or substitute ½ oz Grenadine)

1-4 oz Orange juice

½ oz Bacardi® 151 or more Dark Rum

Pour all ingredients except the Orange juice and the 151 into a shaker half full of ice. Shake like the living dead are really after you. Fill the glass half full of ice (cubed or cracked) and strain the mixture from the shaker into the glass. Add ice to almost fill the glass, leaving room for the desired amount of OJ and the 151. Pour almost as much Orange juice as will fit into the glass and stir, being careful to leave room for the 151. Float the 151 on top, garnish with a cherry (or a slice of lime or orange), and serve with a black straw in honor of the dead on All Souls Eve. I would say “Santé,” but that kind of goes against the sprit of the thing…


  1. This is a drink that I've been interested in since seeing on the long gone Wired cocktail site and the book "Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century" based on it. However, after getting the Dr. Cocktail "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails" and doing some follow up on Tiki Central, I was able to believe that the recipe in the latter book was indeed the Don the Beachcomber recipe. Having had a number of versions, I believe it's the Passion Fruit syrup and Lemonhart 151 French Guyana Rum that Don claimed was the magic in many of his drinks that adds the magic.
    I had a bottle of Bacardi 151. It was undrinkable on it's own. I did a few drinks where it was floated, but rarely found it to be an improvement over the drink without it. The Lemonhart tastes excellent on it's own. I dumped the Bacardi down the drain.
    The one change from the Dr. Cocktail recipe I've made is to switch the angostura bitters to Falernum. I believe it's a more accurate taste.
    I would also think that orgeat would be a more accurate almond flavor than other almond flavorings, but your recipe may well work better as written.
    I'm still deciding how important Rums from specific islands are over the more generic light, medium and dark as written here.
    I've bitten the bullet and purchased Rums from several States to get the specific ones mentioned in recipes. One day I need to try the same drink with the specific ones vs. just picking the color level. I may discover it doesn't matter.
    Again, not trying to nit pick too hard. It's a really nice blog. Although I have to admit to not understanding some of the more modern drinks you have.
    One last item here. If in Vegas, Frankie's Tiki Bar makes great drinks. They take the time to make their own falernum and some other ingredients. They have Lemonhart by the gallon. They really understand the Tiki drink. I went to the Tiki bar in Honolulu featured by Bourdain in No Reservations last year, and as good as it was Frankie's makes better drinks.

  2. I am impressed by your dedication to the art of the cocktail, especially your application and hard work in acquiring rare ingredients. I drank many Zombies in bars in my younger days, and I'm sure that most of them were not anywhere close to Don the Beachcomber's original recipe. The above recipe was an attempt to develop a Zombie recipe that most people (well, maybe not in Utah)(and who lack your dedication) would have the ingredients for.

    Thanks for your Tiki bar recommendations, Frankie's sounds especially good. If I drive down to see my daughter in LA, I'll have to stop in Vegas and drop in for a Zombie.

    I try to cover a cross section of different types of drinks from classics to "frou frou" (I think of these as dessert cocktails) in my blog, so some (many?) will not appeal to everyone's taste. My hope is that in the long run most readers will find enough of interest that they keep coming back, and that some of them will be moved to try some of the classics. I've enjoyed your comments so far, so keep them coming.