Zombie (cocktail)

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The zombie is an exceptionally strong cocktail made of fruit juices, liqueurs, and various rums, so named for its perceived effects upon the drinker. It first appeared in the late 1930s, invented by Donn Beach (formerly Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gannt) of Hollywood's Don the Beachcomber restaurant. It was later further popularized at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Beach concocted it one afternoon for a friend who had dropped by his restaurant before flying to San Francisco, using five kinds of rum as its base. The friend left after having consumed three of them. He returned several days later to complain that he had subsequently had a fight with his chauffeur, been in an argument on the plane, and later found himself sitting on a San Francisco dock with his feet dangling in the water. "You were like the walking dead," Beach said to him, and after that the mixture was called the zombie.[1] Its smooth, fruity taste works to conceal its extremely high alcoholic content. For many years the Beachcomber restaurants limited their customers to two zombies apiece. According to the original recipe, there are the equivalent of 7.5 ounces (2.2 dl) of alcohol in a single zombie; this is the equivalent of drinking three and a half cocktails made with a fairly generous 2 ounces (0.6 dl) of alcohol per drink. The restaurant limit of two zombies, therefore, would be the equivalent of at least 7 regular cocktails such as a Manhattan, a Martini, or Scotch on the rocks.

Today there are countless variations on the zombie, with every bar, restaurant, and individual offering their own version. The original Beachcomber recipe contained five kinds of rum, including one of 151 proof, cherry liqueur, lime juice and grapefruit juice, two kinds of sugar syrup, including a ginger-flavored one from the Caribbean, Angostura bitters, anisette-flavored liqueur such as Pernod, and grenadine.[2] Like many of his other drinks, the Beachcomber preserved the secret of its preparation zealously, going so far as to mix some of the key ingredients himself in large, unlabeled bottles that had only coded numbers on them for his bartenders to use. Most of today's versions are greatly simplified ones, using fewer rums and substituting other juices such as orange or pineapple.

Don the Beachcomber zombie

This recipe is probably close to how the zombie was originally made. At that time Don the Beachcomber used 5 or 6 kinds of Caribbean rum that are no longer easily available in the United States, so generic rums have been specified. These proportions are supposedly for 1 drink but, with sufficent ice in 2 or 3 glasses, can actually make 2 or 3 very potent drinks.


  • 4 ounces or 1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 3/4 ounces or 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce or 1 tablespoon sugar syrup (1 part sugar dissolved in 1 part water)
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons dark rum such as Myers
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons golden rum
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons white rum
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons 151-proof rum
  • 1-1/4 ounces or 2-1/2 tablespoons spiced golden rum such as Captain Morgan
  • 3/4 ounce or 1-1/2 tablespoons Cherry Heering liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce or 1 tablespoon falernum syrup
  • 2 dashes or 1/2 teaspoon Pernod or other anisette-flavored pastis
  • 3 dashes or 3/4 teaspoon Grenadine

Shake with 4 ice cubes, then pour into 1, 2, or 3 highball glasses that have been filled with crushed ice.


  • The original recipe omits the water, which makes the drink smaller but even more potent than this recipe.
  • The original recipes "floats" the 151-proof rum on top of the finished drink after it has been poured into the glass or glasses—this means that the rum is carefully poured on top of the drink and not stirred, in order to leave a layer of pure rum on top.


  1. Hawaii Tropic Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber, by Arnold Bitner and Phoebe Beach, Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, 2001, pages 58-59
  2. Hawaii Tropic Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber, by Arnold Bitner and Phoebe Beach, Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, 2001, page 56


Hawaii Tropic Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber, by Arnold Bitner and Phoebe Beach, Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, 2001

See also