There are some classic tiki cocktails out there, and many of them are absolutely delicious. However, most of them are also very sweet. This type of cocktail in general has a reputation as a line of trashy nightclub drinks for youngsters who haven’t gotten over their love of Koolaid and who want to get drunk without actually tasting any alcohol. That’s not entirely fair: even the sweet tiki drinks can be very sophisticated when made well and with fresh ingredients. The Jungle Bird is even more sophisticated, though. This one is for grownups who enjoy a fun, tiki drink with proper flavor balance.
The Jungle Bird Cocktail
The origins of this cocktail are particularly difficult to track down. The earliest written mention of it is from 1989, where The New American Bartender’s Guide claimed it was a creation from KL Hilton’s Aviary Bar.
It’s been adjusted a few times since that recipe, though. In 2002, Jeff Berry called for specifically using Jamaican dark rum in his book Intoxica, and in 2010, bartender Guiseppe Gonzalez started making the drink with blackstrap rum. These changes make an already complex drink even better, with an excellent flavor profile.
Some Updated Information
If you want to know the truth, go to the source, so that’s what we did. Everyone agrees this cocktail comes originally from the KL Hilton, and if you talk with the retired staff you’ll learn that the Bird didn’t just show up at the bar: it was a hotel welcome drink actually invented for the opening on July 6, 1973.
Back then, it was served in a ceramic glass shaped like a bird (hence the name) and given a pineapple garnish. It was the creation of rum expert Reinhard Steffen, the food and beverage director of the hotel at the time.
What makes this drink so much different from other tiki types is the bitterness and complexity. Don’t get us wrong: a great tiki cocktail can be amazing no matter how sweet it is if you use fresh fruit juices, balanced alcohols, and none of those corn-syrup-laced mixers. But this one has Campari, which adds an interesting bitterness that plays well with the pineapple and lime. When you add blackstrap rum, things just get that much better.
Jungle Bird Cocktail Recipe
- 1 ½ Ounces Dark Rum
- ¾ Ounce Campari
- 1 ½ Ounces Pineapple Juice
- ½ Ounce Lime Juice
- ½ Ounce Demerara Syrup
- 1 Pineapple Wedge Garnish
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake all these ingredients well and then strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice.
- Garnish with pineapple.