1½ fluid ounces of a gold or dark Jamaican rum or a blend of gold or dark Jamaican rums
(pictured: Appleton Estate Signature Blend of Jamaica)
1½ fluid ounces of a Spanish-style gold rum
(pictured: Havana Club Añejo Especial of Cuba)
1 fluid ounce of a 151-proof Demerara rum
(pictured: Lemon Hart 151¹)
½ fluid ounce of falernum
(pictured: John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum)
½ fluid ounce of Don’s mix
(pictured: B. G. Reynolds’ Paradise Blend)
¾ fluid ounce of fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon of pomegranate grenadine
(pictured: Liber & Co. Real Grenadine)
(pictured: Pernod Absinthe Supérieure Original Recipe)
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Shake all of the ingredients with ice. If making a single drink, pour (without straining) into a large glass that can hold about two regular sized drinks and top with ice as needed.
Otherwise, this recipe may be used for two lighter drinks; pour (without straining) into two larger-sized lowball glasses or double old fashioned glasses (this half-size drink is pictured above). Top with ice, as needed.
This drink would have originally been blended, however I shake blended tiki drinks instead.
Reduce the Jamaican rum to 1 fluid ounce and split 1∶1 between gold and dark. Reduce the Spanish-style gold rum to 1 fluid ounce, as well. Skip the overproof Demerara rum. Reduce the lime juice to ½ fluid ounce. Reduce the grenadine to ½ teaspoon, and drastically reduce the falernum to ½ teaspoon. Replace Don’s mix with demerara gum syrup and replace the dash of absinthe with an extra dash of Angostura bitters. Unlike the Zombie, this drink will be regular sized.
Use a dark Jamaican rum. Replace the Spanish-style gold rum with a Spanish-style light rum and reduce to ¾ fluid ounce. Skip the overproof Demerara rum. Reduce the lime juice to ½ fluid ounce. Skip the Don’s mix and grenadine. Add ½ fluid ounce of Cointreau. Instead of mint, garnish with a maraschino cherry. Unlike the Zombie, this drink will be regular sized.
The Zombie is arguably the most famous tiki cocktail besides the Mai Tai. It was created circa 1934 by Donn Beach and the original recipe was elusive for many years, due to a confusing web of proprietary, numerically labeled ingredients.
This recipe would not be possible without Beachbum Berry’s tireless search to untangle the original ingredients.
Tiki lesson: The Zombie
Tiki drinks are notorious for including a large array of esoteric syrups and rums. There may not seem to be any rhyme or reason to their structure and they are often mistakenly assumed to just be syrupy, alcoholic concoctions designed to mask the taste of spirits.
While the goal of tiki is certainly to make sweet and spicy drinks rather than bitter and dry drinks, the idea was never to cover up the flavor of the rums or to make drinks that were undrinkably cloying and saccharine.
The Zombie makes a lot more sense when you realize that Donn Beach was constructing a cocktail based on classic punches (see also: Planter’s Punch). Tiki is all about taking a simple drink structure and subdividing ingredients to add flavor complexity.
There is an old rhyme regarding punches that comes from Barbados:
One of sour, two of sweet,
three of strong, and four of weak.
A dash of bitters and a sprinkle of spice,
serve well chilled with plenty of ice.
In this case, the “sour” is the lime juice and Don’s mix plays double duty adding a bit of grapefruit flavor to the lime. The “sweet” is Don’s mix, the falernum, and the grenadine. The “strong” is the split base of rums. The “weak” is the water from shaking with ice.
The bitters are the Angostura bitters as well as the absinthe, and the spice comes from the “sweet” components all doing double duty with Don’s mix adding cinnamon, Falernum adding clove, ginger, and allspice, among others, and grenadine adding pomegranate and floral waters. The Jamaican and Demerara rums also add to this spice component.
When you go through the recipe with this in mind, you can see how every component is playing multiple roles and fulfilling part of an ingredient split. Lime juice gets split with grapefruit thanks to Don’s mix, which also provides “sweet” and cinnamon spice. Falernum is adding “sweet” and spice. Demerara rum adds “strong” and spice. Etc, etc.
If you do the math on proportions, you’ll see that Donn actually created something stronger and less syrupy than the punch described in the above verse. Further, the sour to sweet ratio is more in line with the 4∶3 ratio specified in a Planter’s Punch recipe from the New York Times in 1908, rather than the 1∶2 ratio as specified above. However, the drink’s punch roots are clear and hopefully this helps shed light both on the ingredients list and the idea of tiki drink construction in general.
Lemon Hart 151 is the original rum called for, however Hamilton 151 is a respected substitute. It was created specifically to fill the overproof Demerara rum void during an unexpected years-long gap in Lemon Hart production.
Donn Beach would have legally only had access to anise-flavored absinthe alternatives, but in recipes calling only for small amounts of such ingredients, quality absinthe is an acceptable replacement.