In Your Head: The Zombie

In tiki culture, there isn’t a drink as ubiquitous and iconic as the Zombie.  The problem was, it wasn’t until recently that anybody had the original recipe for this cocktail.  How is this possible?

Here’s the shortest, easiest explanation of tiki culture I could possibly think of:

“Two guys start two separate bars with South Pacific themes and loosely Caribbean-inspired rum drinks, keep their drink recipes super secret, and capture the hearts and minds of people returning from the South Pacific and Midwesterners who couldn’t afford to travel to Hawaii.”

Tiki was the embodiment of a mid-century modern fad, and people weren’t exactly willing to share their recipes.  According to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who discovered the original recipe through extensive research and first published it in 2007, “…a generation after the Tiki era ended in the late 1970s, it was hard to see what all the fuss was about, because Donn had never published his top secret recipe; the versions that did exist were inferior attempts to clone the drink by bartenders who had never tasted the original.”

Apparently, people who opened tiki bars in the middle of the 20th century cared very little for originality, and wouldn’t let a little thing like accuracy get in their way.  Such is the story of the Mai Tai, the Rum Runner, the Singapore Sling, and pretty much any other tiki-related cocktail you could possibly think of.  Regardless, the original recipe has been rediscovered, thanks to the efforts of Jeff Berry, who the entire cocktail world owes a great debt to.  No, seriously.  He’s the man.  If you ever get your hands on one of these, just remember that this guy had to pry this recipe out of a man sworn to secrecy.

But first, here’s a warning about the Zombie.  This is the strongest drink recipe I’ve ever read.  I actually ordered one at Smuggler’s Cover in SF and had to leave it on the bar because I didn’t want to ruin the rest of my night.   You’ve been warned.

Zombie – Donn the Beachcomber

1.5 oz Gold Rum
1.5 oz Jamaican Rum
1 oz Demerara 151
0.75 oz Lime Juice
0.5 oz Donn’s Mix
0.5 oz Velvet Falernum
6 drops Pernod (absinthe)
barspoon grenadine
dash Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake until cold, strain into a glass and pray it’s large enough, then place as much ice as you can into the glass.  Garnish with a mint sprig.  Wait 5 minutes, then call a cab to take you home.