Zombie Punch

by Matt Robold on October 29, 2009

Post image for Zombie Punch

Don The Beachcomber has been mentioned here from time to time, but it’s rare that any of his drinks actually get covered.  Is it because I dislike Tiki?  Because I’m a Trader Vicist – a Bergeronista, if you will?  Is it because I don’t like his “mai tai” recipe?

Well no.  Don The Beachcomber may be more responsible than anyone for sparking the Tiki craze of the early to middle part of the 20th Century in the US.  I may not be a Tiki blogger, but I’d be a fool to not appreciate that, as Ben Reed has said on more than one occasion, Tiki makes drinking – and specifically rum – accessible to the masses.

The Zombie is an odd duck when it comes to drinks.  Much like the Mai Tai, everyone claims to have had one, and probably almost no one has.  It was originally developed by Donn Beach, who’s penchant for secrecy when it came to his recipes almost condemned the true Zombie to the dustbin of history.

Luckily for us there is a bum in the world that wouldn’t let that happen.  Jeff “Beachbum” Berry spent years tracking down Donn’s secret recipe.  In his book, “Intoxica!“, the Bum pronounced that he had tracked down the secret recipe and printed it in his book.  As it turned out, that only led him further down the rabbit hole, subsequently coming across 2 more recipes, and forcing him to decipher secret ingredient after secret ingredient to find the original Zombie recipe from 1934.

I won’t go in to too many details about the Bum’s search.  You can read about that in his book, “Sippin’ Safari” – which I highly recommend.

Zombie Punch TallZombie Punch
from “Sippin’ Safari”

.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Don’s Mix
.5 oz Falernum
1.5 oz Jamaican Rum
1.5 oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum
1 oz 151 Demerara Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/8th tsp Herbsaint or Pernod
1 tsp Grenadine
.75 cup crushed ice

Put everything into a blender, saving ice for last.  Blend at high speed for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chimney glass and fill with ice.  Garnish with fresh mint.

Now THAT is some Zombie.  The original Zombie calls for Lowndes Jamaican Rum, and the Bum recommends using Appleton Estate V/X as a stand-in (and who am I to disagree?). For the Puerto Rican rum I actually prefer to sub in Cruzan Gold from St. Croix.  When it comes to the 151 proof demerara, there’s little choice but to opt for the Lemonhart 151.

Of course then there’s the tricky little matter of that weird “Don’s Mix” ingredient.  Don’t despair, the Bum worked that out for us too:

Don’s Mix

2 parts Grapefruit Juice
1 part Cinnamon Syrup

The Zombie Punch is a drink that is tart and sweet and refreshing all at the same time.  The challenge with any drink that has this many ingredients is for it to remain cohesive without becoming gray, shapeless collection of flavors.  Don The Beachcomber did this better than anyone else, and the 1934 Zombie Punch stands as a testament to that.

Question of the day:

What’s your favorite Don The Beachcomber drink?

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