It may have happened to you, too. You sat in a well-designed bar with the fellas or on a romantic date. You went through the alcohol options on the menu until you settled on a name that piqued your interest. As people who really like horror movies, it is clear that you could not remain indifferent to a cocktail called “Zombie,” especially with such an impressive list of ingredients that includes several types of rum. So you invited him, also to impress, and in the process, started a monologue about your favorite zombie movies. You cheered, you drank, and the cocktail with the tempting hue was even tasty and fruity. But a few hours later, you turned into bloodthirsty zombies. You ate the friends, or the equal date, and mumbled: “Ruuuuummmmmmmmm.” From that point, you started a zombie epidemic.
Well, we may have gone a little over the top here. But Zombie cocktail, one of the most beloved and classic tiki drinks, is one of the strongest you can find today. Here is everything you need to know about the drink’s roots, how you can make it (even at your home!), and some complementary products that will allow you to create the perfect zombie drinking experience.
The Origin Of The Zombie Cocktail
Zombie Cocktail is a classic tiki drink created by Donn Beach in the 1930s at his Hollywood bar, Donn the Beachcomber. Donn Beach was an American military veteran, businessman, and restaurateur who developed a fondness for overseas travel. He designed his restaurant in an exotic style, and the cocktails he concocted were influenced by the cultures he visited.
According to legend, Donn Beach created the first zombie cocktail in real time to help a client suffering from a hangover before a flight, at the end of which a vital business meeting awaited him. After the trip, the customer returned to the bar and complained: “What did you put in my drink? During the whole trip, I was like a zombie because of him!”.
According to one theory, the drink’s name was influenced by “The White Zombie” (1932), the zombie film starring Bela Lugosi, the wizard of horror, released a few years earlier. Although “The White Zombie” is now considered by many to be the first zombie movie, for decades, pop culture pretty much neglected it, and even today, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. A reasonably common perception today is that the foundations for most zombie films were laid by George A. Romero only a few decades later, with the masterful “Night of the Living Dead.”
Strong, Powerful, And Fruity: Meet The Zombie Cocktail
Zombie cocktail is an intense and fruity mixture of rum and various juices, with a hint of absinthe and cinnamon. If you go into smaller resolutions, you will find three types of rum here – Jamaican rum, Puerto Rican rum, and 151 (a strong rum with a degree of about 75% alcohol, so it is highly recommended not to drink it outside of cocktails). The drink also includes ingredients that give it a smooth, fruity, and “casual” taste, such as lime juice, grenadine, Pernod, cinnamon syrup mixed with grapefruit juice, and more.
The result is that the smooth, fruity taste of the zombie cocktail works to hide its higher alcohol content, and that’s the danger. The alcohol percentage of the cocktail can vary depending on the specific recipe and brands of rum used. Still, it is generally high by any standard: one zombie cocktail has more than double the alcohol content of a typical classic cocktail. Therefore, it is advisable to drink this cocktail responsibly and in moderation. For this reason, at one point, Donn Beach limited the sale of the drink in his bar to two glasses per customer, perhaps in memory of that customer who accused him of turning into a zombie.
It is impossible to separate the zombie cocktail from the tiki culture, as the same Donn Beach also founded this culture. The zombie cocktail is one of the most iconic drinks of tiki culture, reflecting its adventurous spirit and sense of humor. The tiki culture is a subculture that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s in Hawaii under the influence of Polynesian art, music, literature, and cuisine. Tiki bars were popular places to sit in a good atmosphere and enjoy exotic cocktails in a setting often decorated with bamboo furniture, tropical plants, masks, sculptures, and other objects.
What Are The Zombie Cocktail Ingredients?
It is important to note that Donn Beach was very jealous of his cocktails, and quite rightly so. According to reports, he kept the names of the components a secret and even invented code names. The bartenders he employed didn’t know what they were pouring into the customers’ glasses. He primarily took these secrets with him until he died in 1989. Over the years, countless bartenders have tried to recreate Donn’s original Zombie Cocktail recipe or at least create their versions of the zombie cocktail.
So, what’s in a Zombie Cocktail? The list of Zombie Cocktail ingredients may vary depending on the recipe, but the essential ingredients are:
Rum: You can use different types of rum in a zombie cocktail. Don Beach’s original recipe used three types of rum: Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and 151. Some versions use only one or two types of rum or add other spirits, such as cherry brandy or Bacardi.
Juice: You can use different fruits such as pineapple, orange, grapefruit, papaya, or passion fruit. The juice adds sweetness and acidity to balance the intense flavors of the other ingredients. In practice, there is little significance to the type of fruit you enter the drink.
Syrup: One can make the syrup from different ingredients. Grenadine is a red-colored syrup made from pomegranate juice and sugar, which adds a sweet and sour contrast to the drink. Another option is palernum, a liqueur made from anise seeds and other spices that add a mild herbal and anise flavor to the drink. “Simple” syrup is a mixture of sugar and water that adds sweetness to the drink. “Don’s Mix” is a cinnamon-flavored simple syrup mixed with fresh grapefruit juice created by Donn Beach himself.
Bitterness: It is customary to use different components to add bitterness, thus some complexity and depth to the drink. An example is Angostura Bitter.
Absinthe: Absinthe, a distilled alcoholic beverage from the Athenis family, is an optional ingredient that adds some herbal and aniseed flavor to the drink. It has a relatively high percentage of ethanol, seasoned with various plant extracts.
Add some decorations, such as mint sprigs, cherries, pineapple slices, or umbrellas, to make the drink even more fun and festive. You can also light some rum types to get a dramatic effect; being careful is essential. You don’t mess with zombies.
One Drink, Different Versions
In addition, several different versions of the cocktail have equally enticing names.
Voodoo Zombie Cocktail
The first standard version is the Voodoo Zombie Cocktail, which uses dark rum, grenadine, and absinthe to create a rich and colorful drink. The drink’s dark rum adds flavor and smoothness, while the grenadine adds a sweet and sour contrast. The absinthe gives the Voodoo Zombie Cocktail a delicate taste of plants and anise that complements the other ingredients.
Blue Zombie Cocktail
Another example is a blue zombie cocktail. This version uses blue Curacao instead of grenadine to give the drink a vibrant blue hue. Blue Curacao is a liqueur made from the dried peels of the Laraha fruit of the citrus family, which grows on the island of that name. Blue Zombie Cocktail ingredients list combines a fruity and bitter taste. Visually, it makes the necessary “wow” and can add an exotic look to the drink or even glow in the dark.
Bacardi Zombie Cocktail
If you’re looking for an extra-strong version of Zombie, try the following cocktail, which combines Bacardi 151 – rum that can be proven to have been aged for at least two years in oak barrels. Bacardi Zombie Cocktail is rich, spicy, and particularly strong.
How To Make A Zombie Cocktail?
You can find the zombie drink in many tiki bars worldwide, which have become quite a hit in recent years. This way, you are guaranteed a pleasant and lively atmosphere, music that will take you to other regions, and more. It is a possible but somewhat complex task if you want to make the drink at home. You can easily find Zombie Cocktail recipes for different versions of a zombie cocktail, including:
- Zombie Rum Cocktail – Liquer.com
- Zombie Cocktail Recipe – Difford’s Guide
- How to Make a Zombie Cocktail – Bacardi
- Best Zombie Cocktail Recipe – Delish
If you prefer video tutorials, you can easily find some excellent videos on YouTube, such as the following video:
Another option is to learn how to make cocktails on your own, so you can even add a personal flavor to your cocktail. In SkillShare we found many cocktail courses, designed to turn beginners into home bar aficionados and enhance the skills of seasoned mixologists. With classes led by industry professionals, learners can explore the essentials of cocktail making, from stocking a home bar and understanding the importance of balance, to mastering cocktail tools and creating signature drinks. The courses are structured with short, engaging lessons and hands-on projects, ensuring that students not only gain theoretical knowledge but also practical experience in mixing, shaking, and stirring up classic and innovative cocktails. Maybe you can use it for your perfect Zombie Cocktails.
Udemy, another excellent website for online courses, also has some great options.
More Than A Drink
We recommend you go all the way and try to create a real zombie evening. What could be better than drinking a Zombie cocktail in front of a zombie movie from the rich repertoire of the last decades? Another possibility to spice up the atmosphere is with the help of tiki music and to decorate the viewing area with objects such as skulls, statues, and other components that you will find mainly in tiki bars. You can even organize a viewing evening where the dress code will be tiki-style, for example, Hawaiian shirts or floral clothing. Isn’t it romantic?
Not long ago, we made an article about horror Geeky Tikis mugs, which can fit a stamp for drinking a zombie cocktail – and it’s easy to understand why. If you want to take it a few steps further, you can find some Zombie Cocktail glasses, For example, we found a mug (16 oz.) in the design of the Terman zombie from the cult film “Return of the Living Dead,” with a dark and colorful design that manages to convey the grotesque appearance of the zombie character. This Terman dude is not the character that every horror fan can memorize in their sleep – after all, the emphasis in zombie movies is mainly on quantity and not quality – but this Zombie Cocktail glass is particularly remarkable.
Another product that perfectly matches the atmosphere is a geeky mug designed by Daryl Dixon from “The Walking Dead,” the character considered especially beloved by the fans, and got her spin-off series. The mug (18 oz.) is brown and features elements associated with the character, such as the arrow.
We believe you don’t have to be “petty” and only look for Geeky Tikis zombie mugs because that will limit your options. Other horror mugs from the wide variety, some of which we reviewed here on the site, will also be able to do a great job because they fit the style and atmosphere associated with the tiki culture. Another option, slightly cheaper, is to buy ttiki-style glass cups.
Here are some more recommended tiki glasses we found: