Zombie Cocktail

Zombie Cocktail Recipe

The Spruce 

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
269 Calories
0g Fat
20g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 269
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 15g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 40mg 202%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 199mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The zombie is a famous tropical rum cocktail. Donn Beach created it in the 1930s when he opened America's first Polynesian-themed tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, in Hollywood, California. It is a tasty blend of rum and fruit juices and a fantastic summertime cocktail.

Beach encrypted his original cocktail recipes and bar stock with top-secret codes, so very few people knew how to make it. As the zombie's popularity grew, other bars created their own renditions, and this classic cocktail took on all sorts of ingredients and flavors. Most have a base of both light and dark rums; sometimes, with 151-proof rum. Passion fruit is common, though an array of other fruits, including grapefruit, orange, papaya, and pineapple, have been used in zombies. Many are excellent cocktails, and it's worth mixing up a few different versions to see which you enjoy most.

This recipe is adapted from one in Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's book "Sippin Safari." He uncovered it in a 1950 self-published book by Louis Spievak. Within the nine pages that detail Berry's journey to uncover the original zombie recipe, he speculates that Beach may have intentionally simplified this recipe for people to mix at home. While it is an easy drink to make, it's also a brilliant mix with a fascinating taste. Beyond the zombie punch (and unless more secrets are revealed), this may be as close to the first zombie as most people today will taste.

1:15

Click Play to See This Zombie Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce light rum

  • 1 ounce gold rum

  • 1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice

  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1/2 lemon

  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1 large lime

  • 1 ounce passion fruit syrup

  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup

  • 1 dash aromatic bitters

  • 1 ounce 151-proof dark rum

  • Fresh mint sprig, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for a Classic Zombie Cocktail
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  2. In a cocktail shaker, pour the light and dark rums, pineapple and citrus juices, passion fruit syrup, simple syrup, and bitters. Add the high-proof rum now, or reserve it for a float. Fill the shaker with ice.

    Pouring alcohol into a cocktail shaker
     The Spruce
  3. Shake well.

    Cocktail shaker
     The Spruce
  4. Strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice.

    Zombie cocktail after being strained into a tall glass
     The Spruce
  5. Optionally, float the high-proof rum on top of the drink by slowly pouring it over the back of a bar spoon.

    Floating high-proof rum over the cocktail
     The Spruce
  6. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

    Garnished with fresh mint and a strawberry
     The Spruce

Tips

  • The ice is another point of contention with the zombie. Traditionally, crushed ice is preferred, though you can use ice cubes as well.
  • The zombie is always served in a tall glass. The "zombie glass" is a 12-ounce version of highball or collins glasses. If you're looking for a more tropical look and feel, serve it in a hurricane glass.
  • To float the rum, a bar spoon is handy. It has a thinner bowl that can fit into most glasses, and the long handle helps with balance for a smoother pour. A regular small spoon will work in a pinch.

Recipe Variations

  • In the 1950 recipe from Berry's book, the original sweetener is 1 teaspoon brown sugar. It's dissolved in the lime juice before the other ingredients are added. While the recipe doesn't indicate straining, shaking breaks down the ice. It's generally best to strain the cocktail over fresh ice to avoid an overly diluted cocktail.
  • Dale Degroff's zombie recipe from "The Craft of the Cocktail" is a popular option. To make it, combine 1 ounce each of light rum, dark rum, and orange curaçao with 1 1/2 ounces each of passion fruit purée or syrup and orange juice, 1/2 ounce each of fresh lemon and lime juices, 1/4 ounce of grenadine, and 2 dashes of aromatic bitters. Shake with ice and strain into a tall glass over fresh ice. Float 1/2 ounce of 151-proof dark rum on top (it can be added to the shaker or skipped entirely) and garnish with mint and seasonal fruits.
  • Try Gary ("Gaz") Regan's Zombie No. 2 from "The Joy of Mixology," which he notes was adapted from Berry's "Beachbum Berry's Grog Log" (2003): Combine 1 ounce dark rum, 1 1/2 ounces each of añejo and light rums, 3/4 ounce each of applejack, papaya nectar, and pineapple juice, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, and 1/2 ounce simple syrup and shake with ice. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice, then float 1/2 ounce of 151-proof rum on top. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, pineapple spear, and mint sprig.

Who Created the Zombie Cocktail?

Donn Beach (born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt in 1907; died in 1989) is a legend among bartenders. He devised the first tropical-themed establishment that laid the foundation for America's tiki bar scene. Beach was not only a great businessman but also had a knack for combining an array of ingredients to create elaborate tropical cocktails, including the zombie.


It's likely that the zombie was one of Beach's first cocktails. In Spievak's book, he's quoted as saying, " I originated and served this 'thing' since 1934." However, it's unclear what was in that first mix and whether it was the zombie or the zombie punch. Berry's "Sippin' Safari" book explores all the possibilities in fascinating detail.


While it's agreed today that Beach created the zombie, many others tried to take credit for it over the years. Monte Proser's Zombie was served during the 1939 World's Fair in New York, and quite a few other bars claimed to be "home of the zombie." Despite the controversies, lost stories, and variations, this famous cocktail was definitely good business.

What's the Difference Between the Zombie and Zombie Punch?

Berry's zombie research indicates that the original zombie may have actually been named the zombie punch. A 1930s Don the Beachcomber bartender's recipe card is similar to the zombie punch recipe that includes falernum, anise liquor, cinnamon syrup, and grenadine. This is also similar to a blended zombie found in a 1956 issue of the Cabaret Quarterly magazine from Beach's Waikiki location. Beach was fond of blended drinks, which is why this shaken zombie was likely a simplified variation of the original. Nonetheless, the array of fruit juices and other flavors place all zombie cocktails in the classic definition of a punch.

How Strong Is the Zombie Cocktail?

The zombie is a rum-filled, notoriously powerful drink. It's said that Beach limited each customer to two zombies due to the cocktail's potency. But how strong is it? The recipe you choose is going to make a difference, though they are comparable. For instance, the 1950 zombie shakes up to around 20 percent ABV (40 proof) when made with 80-proof light and gold rums. DeGroff's zombie falls in that range, but Regan's zombie is slightly heavier at 25 percent ABV (50 proof).