This recipe is for the classic 1934 zombie punch, which was unearthed by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. It comes from the private collection of Don (Beach) the Beachcomber, one of the founders of the tiki cocktail culture. Beach was a man known for guarding his recipes very well and Berry wrote about this one in his 2007 book "Sippin' Safari."
You will notice that this is not a "punch" in the modern sense. Instead of a large batch made to serve many guests at a party, it is a classically-styled punch served by the glass. In this context, "punch" refers to a fruity cocktail that is filled with an array of flavors.
The zombie punch is fascinating, with its combination of citrus, herbs, spices, and sweet grenadine. On top of all that, there are three different styles of rum! Everything is mixed in a blender to create a frozen cocktail that you will not forget anytime soon.
- 3/4 cup ice
- 1 1/2 ounces Jamaican rum
- 1 1/2 ounces gold Puerto Rican rum
- 1 ounce 151-proof Demerara rum
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon syrup
- 2 teaspoon grapefruit juice
- 3/4 ounce lime juice (fresh-squeezed)
- 1/2 ounce falernum
- Dash Angostura Bitters
- 6 drops Herbsaint or Pernod
- 1 teaspoon grenadine
- Garnish: mint sprigs
Gather the ingredients.
In a blender, crush 3/4 cup of ice.
Add all of the liquid ingredients.
Blend on high speed for 5 seconds.
Pour into a tall glass, adding more ice cubes until full.
Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Serve and enjoy!
This zombie punch blends up to be a very tall drink. At around 12 ounces, you might want to split it into two glasses and share the tiki experience.
A signature of tiki cocktails is to combine various styles of rum. The zombie punch takes that to an extreme, requiring three shots to create a rather strong drink. The key here is to interpret Don the Beachcomber's rum picks into modern-day offerings.
Jamaican Rum: The Caribbean island is known for producing heavy, full-flavored rums and the government has some of the strictest regulations found in the rum industry. Look for brands like Appleton Estate, Hampden, J Wray and Nephew, and Rum Nation, though there is no shortage of rum coming out of Jamaica.
Gold Puerto Rican Rum: Puerto Rico claims to be the "Rum Capital of the World" and some very fine rums come from the island. These rums must be aged in American oak barrels for at least a year and use continuous distillation. While there are other styles of rum produced there, this recipe specifically calls for gold rum. Look for bottles of this from Bacardi, Don Q, and Ron Castillo.
151-Proof Demerara Rum: This overproof rum really gives the zombie punch a kick and it's very specific. The demerara version of overproof rum has a smokiness that gives it a nearly burnt taste, so it's a nice addition to such a complex drink. For this one, you don't have many options: Lemon Hart and Hamilton are two brands to look for. In a pinch, try another 151 rum, such as that from Cruzan.
During the time that the original zombie punch was essentially lost to the bartending community, there were many attempts to replicate the recipe. A number of those transformed the drink from a single frozen cocktail into a boozy party punch.
Quite often, these recipes became an explosion of ingredients—almost as if people threw whatever juices, sweeteners, and liquors they had into a punch bowl. In some cases, it worked out, while others failed in everything except the mission to get everyone drunk. Yet, most modern zombie punch recipes cannot stand up to the well-balanced flavor of the Beachcomber's.
If you'd like to taste one of the better zombie punch recreations, give this one a try: 2 cups each orange liqueur, lime juice, and orange juice; 750-ml bottle each of gold or light rum and dark rum; 2 ounces Pernod; 1/2 cup grenadine; 1 cup each lemon juice, papaya or pineapple juice, and passionfruit juice.
This punch is best when mixed up several hours in advance so the flavors have time to marry and really develop, much like a sangria. You will also want to serve it over a large cake of ice, making it nice and cold with a good amount of dilution. A bunch of pineapple slices and other fresh, seasonal fruits are the garnish of choice.
How Strong Is a Zombie Punch?
With all the rum, you might suspect that the zombie punch will turn you into a zombie! There's so much going on here, though, that it's really not terribly strong. It should mix up somewhere around 16 percent ABV (32 proof).