The Zombie is a strong rum punch. It was the signature cocktail of the Don the Beachcomber restaurant, and therefore the cocktail that launched the tiki bar craze. With 3 1/2 to 4 ounces of rum (including 151-proof Demerara), it's also one of the strongest tiki drinks.
Who was the Zombie Created by?
According to David Herpin
Many believe this drink was created in 1933 or 1934 by Donn the Beachcomber, which it might have been, however it is unlikely. Donn was also known to claim the Mai Tai at this same time, this was certainly not true. Here is an early printing of this drink:
CIE: Volumes 50-51 by Hotel & Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union, Hotel and Restaurant Employees' International Alliance and Bartenders' International League of America in 1941
"List this Hot Zombie : HOT ZOMBIE "Juice of 1 lime, unsweetened pineapple juice, bitters, 1 ounce heavily bodied rum, 2 ounces of Gold Label rum, 1 ounce of White Label rum, 1 ounce of apricot-flavored brandy, 1 ounce of papaya juice"
Other sources claim this drink was popularized by the World's Fair in New York in 1939, but provide no literature supporting this claim. There is no evidence that this drink even existed prior to 1940, Some early references do not even place this drink in california as seen here:
America day by day by Simone de Beauvoir in 1953
"Meanwhile, we cheerfully drank zombies. This formidable cocktail originated in New Orleans; this drink is named after the living dead. The zombie cocktail is considered so strong that in many places they do not serve it"
Donn's premix was not even in circulation until the late 1940's as seen here:
How liquor is produced - May 27, 1946 - Page 70 LIFE
"ZOMBIE 1 oz. lemon juice, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 oz. Chinn no. 1 pony Zombie Mixer, 1 oz. pineapple juice. 1 oz papaya, dash of bitters"
This drink was likely named after the popular song "Abercrombie Had a Zombie" as seen in this publication:
The American music lover: Volume 7 by Peter Hugh Reed in 1940
"Abercrombie Had a Zombie, and Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do. "Fats" Waller and his Rhythm."
There have been many recipes that have attempted to recreate the premix, however, it appears there was no need, seeing as recipes far predate Donn's Zombie mix. It is undetermined when and where this drink derived, or even how it got it's name, but nearly all early recipes list the same ingredients.
This drink dates between 1939 - 1941 and contained atleast as of then:
heat these ingredients:
Heavily Bodied Rum (Dark Rum, Jamaican)
Apricot flavored brandy
Bitters (likely Angostura)
Pour into a heat retaining vessel.
The Zombie was supposedly "created" at Don the Beachcomber in 1934. The evidence for Don the Beachcomber being the inventor of the Zombie is purely down to Donn Beach saying he did. Don claims to have invented the Zombie in 1934. There have been other claimants, including Monte Proser who opened a string of East Coast Don the Beachcomber knockoffs called Monte Proser's Beachcomber ("Home of the Zombie"). But none other than Vic Berguron of Trader Vic's credits the drink's creation to Donn Beach.
Zombie Punch (1934)
From 1937 notebook of Beachcomber's waiter Dick Santiago - decoded by Jeff Berry in "Sippin' Safari." This is apparently the original version of the drink, although Don would later modify it over time.
- 3/4 oz. lime (juice)
- 1/2 oz. Don's Mix
- 1/2 oz swizzle or falernum
- 1 1/2 oz. Lowndes Jamaica
- 1 1/2 oz. Puerto Rican Dk. (gold)
- 1 oz. Demerara 151
- Dashes - Angostura (bitters), grenadine & absainthe (Pernod)
Put all into blender, with 6 oz. ice last. Blend for five seconds. Pour into glass and garnish with mint sprig.
NOTE: Don's mix is 2 parts grapefruit juice, 1 part cinnamon-infused sugar syrup.
Recipe from Don the Beachcomber in Waikiki, according to a 1956 Cabaret Quarterly Magazine article
- 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
- 1 1/2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
- 1/4 oz. Falernum
- 1 1/4 oz. Puerto Rican gold rum
- 1 oz. Jamaican dark rum
- 1 oz. 151-proof Demerara rum
- 3/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur
- 1/4 tsp. Grenadine
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 6 drops Pernod
Put all in blender with ice. Blend for 5 seconds. Pour into glass and garnish with mint sprig.
Recipe from "Hawaii Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber" by Arnold Bitner & Phoebe Beach (2001). Although this book is published by Donn Beach's widow, there has been speculation regarding how authentic this recipe is. While it resembles earlier Beachcomber recipes, its inclusion of more than 5 ounces of rum and the listing of Pernod twice and the then-outlawed Absinthe leaves some doubt.
- 3/4 oz Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
- 1/2 oz Falernum
- 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
- 1-1/4 oz Ramirez Royal Superior - Puerto Rico*
- 1 oz Lemon Hart Demerara 151
- 1 oz Palau (30 years old) - Cuba*
- 1 oz Myers's Planter's Punch - Jamaica*
- 1 oz Treasure Cove (32 years old) - Jamaica*
- 2 dashes each Angostura bitters, Pernod
- 1 Dash Absinthe, Pernod
- 3 dashes Grenadine
- 3/4 oz Marashino Liquor
Pour all ingredients into a blender with a handful of cracked ice. pour into 14 oz. glass with a few ice cubes. Garnish with spear of pineapple, orange, cherry and sprig of mint. Serve with straw.
(*) Recommended rum substitutions: - 1 1/4 oz Captain Morgan Private Stock - 1 oz Myers's Legend rum - 1 oz Appleton Estate rum - 1 oz 30-year-old Ron Zacapo Centenario rum
Other Zombie Recipes
Don the Beachcomber of Hollywood created a tropical-themed restaurant craze that quickly swept the nation. And many tried to create their own versions of the Beachcomber's signature cocktail.
"Zombie Zowie, Hollywood Night Life Weird and Wonderful," Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 28, 1938
Don the Beachcomber Zombie recipe
"The serving glass should be approximately 14 ounces and frosted. Into it is shaken one ounce of Demerara 150 proof rum, one ounce of heavy Jamaican rum, one ounce of Guadalupe rum and one ounce Porto Rican cartadora. To this is added one ounce of Falernum and one ounce of simple syrup, the juice of one whole Mexican lime and four dashes of bitters. Decorate with fruits in season, and mint."
"The Gentleman's Companion" by Charles H. Baker Jr., 1939
- 1 cup Enriched Coconut Milk
- 1 jigger Aged Haitian Rum
- 2 jiggers Cognac
- 2 ponies Maraschino Liqueur
- 2 or 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Put in shaker with lots of very finely cracked ice, shake hard and pour into small, chilled goblets.
Enriched coconut milk: Bore two holes in eyes of a ripe coconut. Drain water into saucepan—being careful to strain out fibers or bits of shell. Crack open nut, peel off brown outer skin from kernel, and either grate, grind or cut up fine and add to water. Let simmer for five minutes. Put through a fine cloth, squeezing out the final cream by hand.
"The Official Mixer's Manual" by Patrick Gavin Duffy, 1940
- 3/4 oz. Pineapple Juice
- 3/4 oz. Papaya Juice
- Juice of one lime
- 3/4 oz. Powdered Sugar
- 1/3 oz. Apple Brandy
- 1 oz. Rum, 90 Proof
- 2oz. Tropical Gold Seal Rum, 86 Proof
- 1 oz. White Label Rum
Ice generously and shake. Garnish with a slice of pinapple, a green and a red cherry. THEN FLOAT ON TOP RUM OF 151 PROOF. Top off with fine powdered sugar
"Here's How" by W.C. Whitfield, 1941
- 3/4 oz heavy-bodied rum (96 proof)
- 3/4 oz dark Porto Rican rum
- 3/4 oz light Porto Rican rum
- 3/4 oz red rum
- 1/2 oz apricot brandy
- 3/4 oz pineapple juice
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
Shake well with ice, strain into a tall glass, float 151 rum on top, garnish with mint, pineapple, and cherries.
"LIFE Magazine", 4th September 1944
A Trader Vic originated recipe.
- 2 oz orange juice
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1 oz orange-lime juice (?)
- 1 dash Peychaud's bitters
- 1/2 oz 100 proof Jamaica Rum
- 2 oz Puerto Rican Rum
- 1 oz 151 proof Jamaica rum
- 1/2 oz Jamaica rum 90 proof
- dash of orange curacao
- dash of grenadine
- 1/2 oz Rhum Sarthe
Shake and strain into glass over ice and add a float of Herbsaint.
"Bartender's Guide", by Trader Vic, 1947
- 1 oz Jamaican Rum
- 2 oz Puerto Rican Rum
- 1/2 oz 151 Demerara Rum
- 1 oz Orange Curacao
- 1 oz Lemon
- 1 oz Orange Juice
- 1/2 oz Grenadine
- 1 dash Pernod
Mix in a mixing glass with a large piece of ice; stir well and pour over cracked ice in a14 oz. chimney glass. serve with straw.
Recipe from "Barbecue Chef," a self-published manual by Louis Spievak (1950). This recipe was supposedly provided to Spievak by Donn Beach himself, and was reproduced in "Beachbum Berry's Intoxica!" by Jeff Berry. In Berry's subsequent book "Sippin' Safari," the author suggests that Spievak may have made up this recipe himself because it does not resemble Don's confirmed recipes for the Zombie.
- 1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce passion fruit syrup
- teaspoon brown sugar
- dash Angostura bitters
- 1 ounce gold Puerto Rican rum
- 1 ounce 151 Demerara rum
- 1 ounce white Puerto Rican rum
Dissolve sugar in lemon juice. Shake everything well with crushed ice and pour into a Collins glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.
"There has been much argument about the origination of the Zombie, but credit should be given where credit is due. Don the Beachcomber, of Hollywood, Chicago, and anywhere in the South Pacific, is the originator of this famous drink. Only he can give you the original recipe...." - Vic Bergeron (aka Trader Vic), "Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink," 1949
”The object is to get as many different rums as possible into one drink, like students in a telephone box." - Michael Jackson (Beerhunter)
"I originated and have served this 'thing' since 1934...Anyone that says otherwise is a liar!" - Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber)
"Why people drink them I don't know.... Personally, I think it's too damn strong, but people seem to like it that way" - Vic Bergeron (aka Trader Vic), "Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink," 1949