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The Zombie

The Zombie was one of the first drinks to popularize blending a number of different rums in one beverage. The recipe was a closely guarded secret when it was first developed, meaning that a huge number of imitations were made by people trying to copy the magic of the original. It has since become a globally popular Tiki cocktail.

About This Drink

This legendary drink was created by Ernest Gannt aka “Donn Beach” in 1934. Cocktail lore tells us that the Zombie was invented to help a hungover client at the original Don the Beachcomber bar in Hollywood, CA get through a business meeting. The high alcohol content was masked with more palatable fruit juice to try and cover up the customer’s lamentable state. Predictably, it actually made him feel like a zombie, and the meeting did not go well!

tropical zombie cocktail served with mint garnish

Donn used a coded system at the bar so only he and his bartenders knew what went into the drink. The secret recipe was finally decoded by cocktail sleuth Jeff “Beachbum” Berry who spent an entire decade working out how historic cocktails were made. The Zombie found fame at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 when it was featured on the menu of the Hurricane Bar.

Zombie Cocktail Ingredients

The world’s first Tiki bar is to thank for the creation of this drink. The ingredients are full of those delicious fresh flavours. It is made traditionally with three different types of rum taken from all around the Caribbean. Not only does this add complexity and depth to the flavour, the powerful amount of alcohol means that the name is well deserved!

To make a Zombie you will need:

  • 1.5oz Gold Rum
  • 1.5oz Dark Rum
  • 1oz Overproof Rum
  • 0.75oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5oz falernum syrup
  • 0.5oz grapefruit juice
  • 1tsp grenadine
  • 1tsp Pernod
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters

For a little extra authenticity add a splash of cinnamon-infused sugar syrup, which is thought to have been in “Donn’s Mix”, the top-secret recipe that Donn Beach used to add to his drink mixes. It was two parts grapefruit juice to one part cinnamon sugar syrup. Bartenders creating Zombie variants over the years have experimented with different types of rum as well as swapping out some of the fruit juices for alternatives like passionfruit puree or pineapple juice.

person making a zombie cocktail recipe

How to Make a Zombie Drink

  1. Put all of the ingredients into a blender
  2. Add three-quarters of a cup of ice and blend everything together until it is completely smooth.
  3. Pour the drink into a tall glass, without sieving.
  4. Add a straw, ice cubes, and a mint sprig for garnish

The Zombie is a classic Tiki cocktail that has been making its victims feel like the Living Dead for over 80 years! It is one of the proud great-grandfather recipes in the lexicon of great alcoholic hangover “cures”. Its glamorous origins in Hollywood serve only to make it a more desirable drink to imitate. The surprisingly complex ingredient list means that behind its fruity sweetness, there are some fantastic layers of flavor in this peppy beverage.

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