how to make a zombie

How to Make a Zombie | A Potent Tiki Paradise in Every Glass

Zombie Rum Cocktail: A Potent Tiki Paradise in Every Glass

how to make a zombie

Everything You Need to Know About the Zombie Rum Cocktail

Imagine a vibrant sunset painting the sky with fiery hues, gentle waves lapping at the shore, and the sweet aroma of tropical fruits filling the air. You take a sip of your refreshing drink, a vibrant concoction served in a tiki mug, and for a moment, you're transported to a carefree island paradise. This, my friend, is the magic of the Zombie cocktail – a potent and flavorful tiki drink that will leave you feeling like you've embarked on a mini vacation, all from the comfort of your own home.

The Zombie is more than just a delicious beverage; it's a historical treasure and a testament to the enduring allure of tiki culture. But before we dive into the recipe, let's explore the fascinating story behind this legendary cocktail.

History: A Tiki Pioneer and the Birth of the Zombie Cocktail

The Zombie owes its existence to Donn Beach, the visionary bartender credited with creating the first Polynesian-themed bar in the United States – Don the Beachcomber – which opened its doors in Hollywood, California, back in the 1930s. Beach, also known as Don the Beachcomber, was a pioneer who transformed the bar scene with his unique approach to cocktails. His establishment became a haven for celebrities and everyday people seeking an escape to a tropical paradise.

It was within the vibrant walls of Don the Beachcomber that the Zombie was first concocted, quickly becoming a signature drink and launching the tiki drink movement across the country. Beach was known for his secrecy and often used cryptic recipes to create his unique cocktails. The original Zombie recipe remains somewhat of a mystery, but tiki enthusiasts and bartenders have continued to experiment and develop their own interpretations, resulting in a wide variety of delicious Zombie variations we can enjoy today.

Zombie Cocktail Recipe: Unveiling the Mystery

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There's no single "correct" way to make a Zombie, and the beauty lies in exploring the different flavor profiles offered by various recipes. Here's a breakdown of the key ingredients and instructions for crafting your own delicious Zombie at home:


  • Rums: The foundation of any Zombie is a combination of rums. Traditionally, a blend of light and dark rums is used, but feel free to experiment with different types like aged or spiced rums to create your own unique flavor profile.
  • Fruit Juices: Freshly squeezed lime and pineapple juice are essential for adding a bright and tangy base to the drink. You can also incorporate other tropical fruit juices like passion fruit, orange, or grapefruit for additional complexity.
  • Sweeteners: Simple syrup, grenadine, or flavored syrups like falernum (a spiced rum-based syrup) are often used to balance out the tartness of the fruit juices.
  • High-Proof Rum (Optional): A common element in many Zombie recipes is a "float" of high-proof rum (often 151-proof Demerara rum) poured on top of the drink for an extra kick.

Classic Zombie Cocktail Recipe (Donn Beach)

  • 1 1/2 ounces Jamaican rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces Puerto Rican gold rum
  • 1 ounce 151-proof demerara rum
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 ounce Don’s mix (recipe below)
  • 1/2 ounce falernum
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • 4 dashes Pernod
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: mint sprig
how to make a zombie
Making a Zombie at home is easier than you might think. Here's a step-by-step guide:
  1. Gather Your Ingredients: Use high-quality ingredients, especially the rums and fruit juices. Freshly squeezed juices will significantly enhance the flavor compared to store-bought varieties.
  2. The Two-Step Shake: The Zombie traditionally involves a two-step shaking process. First, combine all ingredients (except the high-proof rum, if using) with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds to create a frothy texture.
  3. Strain and Pour: Strain the mixture into a chilled glass filled with fresh ice.
  4. The High-Proof Rum Float (Optional): Slowly pour the high-proof rum over the back of a spoon to create a layered effect.

How to Make Don the Beachcomber's "Don's Mix" at Home

For an extra touch of authenticity, you can recreate Don the Beachcomber's signature "Don's Mix," a key ingredient in some Zombie recipes, at home:


  • 3 cinnamon sticks, crushed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • White Grapefruit Juice


  1. Combine the cinnamon sticks, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let steep for at least 2 hours.
  3. Strain the mixture and combine one part syrup with two parts fresh grapefruit juice.
  4. Store refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Zombie Variations: Exploring a Universe of Tropical Flavors

how to make a zombie

Now that you've mastered the basic Zombie recipe, let's delve into the exciting world of Zombie variations! Here are some popular options to tantalize your taste buds and impress your guests:


1. The Easy Halloween Zombie (Festive and Fun):

Prioritizing accessibility and visual appeal, this recipe is perfect for a spooky Halloween party.

  • 1 ounce light rum
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine
  • Top with a splash of orange juice (optional)
  • Garnish: A combination of fresh fruit slices (like orange, pineapple, and maraschino cherries) and a mint sprig.

    Instructions: Follow the basic shaking and pouring steps. Add the orange juice splash on top for a final touch of color.

    2. Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's Adaptation (Balanced and Flavorful):

    This recipe, featured in Berry's book "Sippin Safari," offers a well-balanced version using a combination of light and gold rums, various fruit juices, and a high-proof rum for an extra kick.

    • 1 ounce light rum
    • 1 ounce gold rum
    • 1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
    • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
    • 1 ounce passion fruit syrup
    • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
    • 1 dash aromatic bitters
    • 1 ounce 151-proof dark rum (for float)
    • Garnish: Fresh mint sprig
    Instructions: Follow the basic shaking and pouring steps. Use a bar spoon to slowly layer the high-proof rum on top for a stunning presentation.

    These are just a few examples to get you started. With a little creativity, you can experiment with different rum combinations, fruit juices, and sweeteners to create your own signature Zombie variation. Remember, the beauty of the Zombie lies in its adaptability – so have fun and explore the endless possibilities!

    Nutritional Info

    how to make a zombie

    It's important to remember that the Zombie, in any variation, is a high-sugar, high-calorie cocktail. Due to the variations in recipes and ingredients, it's difficult to provide a precise nutritional breakdown. However, a typical Zombie can contain around 200-300 calories and a significant amount of sugar, depending on the use of fresh juices versus store-bought options and the type of sweeteners used. Enjoy this delicious drink in moderation, and consider pairing it with lighter snacks to balance your indulgence.

    Beyond the Recipe: Creating Tiki Magic at Home

    Crafting cocktails at home offers a unique opportunity to impress and entertain family and friends. Imagine the look on their faces when you unveil a steaming batch of Zombies, complete with tiki mugs and festive garnishes. For those who truly want to elevate their home bartending skills and explore the world of cocktails beyond the Zombie, consider enrolling in a comprehensive online bartending course like Barprints' Mixology Mastery. This program equips you with the knowledge and techniques to create classic cocktails with confidence, explore new flavor combinations, and craft signature drinks that will leave your guests speechless.

     how to make a zombie

    So, skip the crowded bars and expensive cocktails. With a little practice and the right ingredients, you can transform your home into a tropical paradise, complete with delicious and impressive tiki cocktails like the Zombie. Now, gather your friends, crank up some island tunes, and why not create your own signature Zombie variation to share? The possibilities are endless!

    how to make a zombie