The Zombie Invasion

There may not have been much good about the faux tiki craze of the mid-20th Century, but the drinks from that period are not that bad. Trader Vic and Donn Beach created some mighty fine beverages, and for today’s entry, we venture into Zombie-land. Not the Woody Harrelson film, but the drink created by Donn Beach himself.

If you don’t know anything about Donn Beach, he was a Texas guy who traveled the world and then opened a bar/restaurant just after prohibition. The name: Don the Beachcomber. Sure, they served regular Chinese food, but they called it Polynesian, and, heck, their drinks were served in fancy mugs and glasses. People loved it, especially the rum drinks, a few of which Donn Beach is credited with creating. Some say he created the Mai Tai, but I like to think Trader Vic did that.

The Zombie was his creation, though, and he kept its actual recipe a secret. People have been trying to recreate it forever, but nobody really knows exactly how he did it. He would make his own mixers and label them by number so no one knew what was in it. All they knew was that a Zombie had mix #4.

A lot of people have tried to research the original zombie recipe, but the original ingredients are hard to find. I like the version found on the Drinking Made Easy site. It’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t contain anything crazy. Here is their recipe with my changes in rum to make it even more accessible to the modern stay at home cocktail drinker:

  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 3/4 oz. 151 rum
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/4 oz. falernum
  • 3/4 oz. cherry heering
  • 2 dashes Angostura
  • 1/4 tsp grenadine
  • 6 dashes Herbsaint

Donn Beach would put his in a blender, but I don’t prefer blended drinks, so I use crushed ice and then shake it really well.

Yes, that’s a lot of ingredients. Sure, it calls for Luxardo Maraschino liquer, but I already have Cherry Heering, so I didn’t want to buy another cherry liquor. For this recipe, I used the Fee Brothers’ non-alcoholic Falernum, but I plan to make my own alcoholic version soon.

So about the taste of the Zombie: sweet and tart and powerful. There’s a real alcohol kick in the back of the throat that stays with you between drinks. Heck, there’s 151 in there! There’s the sour of the juices, but their tempered by the pineapple and the grenadine and bottled Falernum. But it’s not sweet like a sweet and sour or anything like that. The sweetness is hardly noticeable. It’s really just enough to balance out the sour so the alcohol shines through.

This is a drink that you wouldn’t want to drink too many of, and Donn limited his customers to two of them. Sure, it was partly a marketing ploy (“Come and taste the drink so powerful they will only see you two of them!”), but there’s also a reason for it. After drinking a half of one, I can feel it. I wonder what I will feel like on my second one?

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