Zombie Punch

Zombie Punch post image

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?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Craig Hermann

    October 29, 2009, 10:12

    Favorite Donn drink? Can I limit my choice to a small group?

    Three Dots and a Dash
    Cobra’s Fang
    Test Pilot
    and of course
    1934 Zombie Punch

  • martin

    October 29, 2009, 10:57

    Actually, the bum disagrees with the bum- we tried a 1940s bottling of the Lowndes and Extra/12 makes a better sub than the V/X. Nice post!

  • Matt Robold

    October 29, 2009, 11:14

    Great list Craig. I think that pretty much covers my favorite Donn drinks too – though I’m also very partial to the Missionary’s Downfall.

    As an aside, a little bird turned me on to this link from Tiki Central. Apparently Mr. Cate, The Bum, and Stephen Remsburg all got together a few years ago and utilized Stephen’s vast collection of rare and antique rums to remake the ORIGINAL zombie with the ORIGINAL ingredients (or at least as close as they could get).

    Every time I see anything to do with Stephen’s collection I get the intense desire to spend a lot of money buying bottles of rum…

  • Tiare

    October 31, 2009, 18:54

    Very nice post Dood! The 1934 Zombie is totally my favorite of the Zombies. I have to agree with CraigH though on the Donn drinks, its hard to choose one.

    But for the Mai Tai i`m also a Bergeronista.



  • Pete

    November 2, 2009, 02:04

    Great to hear that some Lowndes rum still exists – this company was an original partner brands in a company called United Rum Merchants (URM) formed by some of the UK greats back in the middle of the last century after the second world war destroyed many premises on the London Docks:- Alfred Lamb (Lamb’s Navy), Lemon Hart & Son, owned by Portal Dingwall & Norris (Lemon Hart Jamaica and Dememerara), and others – so to see individual rums still exist is wonderful. Shame they have all been banded about and devalued by the big corporations in latter days first Allied Domecq and now Pernod Ricard.

  • Anthony

    November 3, 2009, 13:33

    at risk of sounding dumb…

    Cinnamon syrup?…

    I imagine steeping a couple cinnamon sticks in simple syrup. Am I wrong? and are we talking 2:1 rich simple? and how many sticks?

    Love you!

  • Matt Robold

    November 3, 2009, 14:37

    You’re right on the nose! The next time you’re making 2:1 simple, just crush up some cinnamon sticks and add them to the mixture while it simmers. This will allow the hot syrup to extract the cinnamon flavors. It’s super simple and incredibly delicious.

  • Flynn Maloy

    December 2, 2009, 10:15

    Hey Matt – as you know, Jeff has unearthed 3 Donn Zombie recipes: 1934 original, the 1950 ‘Speivack’ Zombie (Jeff believes, if it’s real, Donn reworked this recipe for home consumption), and a 1956 Zombie from Donn’s later Hawaiian restaurant – he had tweaked his Zombie over the years. Last xmas, your buddy/my brother-in-law Brian Goldin (the bald “Consultant”) and I mixed all 3 Zombies back to back to back for a group of 5 people as authentically as possible. The later version, 1956, was the across the board winner as the tastiest and most drinkable. Amazingly complex and yummy. We loved it. I continue to mix it regularly (though I prefer 1.5 oz lime and 1 full oz Falernum). Recipe here per Jeff: 3/4 lime, .5 oz Don’s mix, .5 oz Falernum, 1.5 Jamaican, 1.5 oz gold Puerto Rican, 1 oz 151 Demerara, dash bitters, 1/8 oz Pernod, 1 tsp Grenadine.

  • Matt Robold

    December 2, 2009, 10:55

    It’s interesting to find how many different people have different favorites when it comes to the Zombie. I confess that I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison with other people voting, though that sounds like a lot of fun.

    Time to clear some room on my calendar!

    And tell Brian I said “Hello!”

  • Flynn Maloy

    December 2, 2009, 14:42

    Thanks – will tell him. Btw, I’m loving the Ron Barcelo Imperial you recomended they get for my last birthday. yummy. almost gone now. Question for you and the forum: have you ever come across Millenium XM 12 year old, “Demerara’s finest”? I brought back a bottle (the only one they had) I bought after a tasting in a little “Old Rum Shoppe” in Anguilla last January. Wow is all I can say – Demerara’s finest indeed. Spicey firey yumminess. Polar opposite from the smooth seduction of Ron B, but it is now at the top of my must-have-always-in-my-bar list. Never heard of it in this country before, more’s the shame. Anyone else?

  • Flynn Maloy

    December 2, 2009, 15:25

    Sorry to take up more space here everyone, but I must correct myself – I reposted the 1934 recipe Matt gave above by mistake. For those who dont have it, here is Donn’s 1956 Zombie recipe per Jeff Berry’s exhaulted research (and the version preferred by my friends and family) :

    .75 oz lime juice
    .5 oz grapefruit
    1.5 pineapple juice
    1/2 oz Falernum
    1.25 oz gold Puerto Rico
    1 oz dark Jamaican
    1 oz 151 Demerara
    3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur (I use Luxardo – Bevmo carries it).
    1/2 tsp grenadine
    2 dashs bitters
    1/8 tsp Pernod

    The Marashino swapped for cinamon syrup, plus the addition of pineapple juice and 3/4 oz less rum changes completely the taste of the 1934 Zombie. Improves it’s drinkability and complexity, in my humble opinion – Donn’s opinion too I think. Cheers!

  • steve remsberg

    December 7, 2009, 13:27

    I happened on your site while doing some research. Let me add to the list of favorite Beachcomber drinks. Mine are:
    Planter’s Rum Punch
    Q B Cooler
    Montego Bay
    Beachcomber’s Punch
    Beachcomber’s Gold

    On the problems of recreating Donn’s recipes, you must be careful. Jeff Berry’s research mentions “Dark Puerto Rican Rum” for a number of them. The Zombie Punch is one. This has no existing substitute, although you would get the color right with Ron del Barilito. I know of only two dark Puerto Rican Rums, both developed to take a run at Jamaican rum in the Planter’s Punch, which became very popular in the late 30’s. They were Ronrico Red Label and Ron Carioca Tropical – both bottled at 90 and 151 proof. They are a separate species, and they became extinct around 1950. A gold rum doesn’t come close to their flavor. When Martin , Jeff Berry and I made the Zombie Punch a while back we used Lowndes Jamaican Rum and Ronrico Red Label from miniatures, which you can find on the internet.

  • scomorokh

    January 7, 2010, 12:15

    Great post Matt. You give me a lot of inspiration. Actually my favorite tiki-drink is Mai Tai (well, seems I`m Bergeronista too, do you take me in the club?), but from remaining Zombie is not so bad choice – a lot of rum, a lot of juices and exotic additives – all of this results in complex and interesting drink. In my opinion one of the great Zombie`s ingredients is Pernod, my latest version of Zombie is1947 Zombie (Trader Vic`s recipe) – awesome drink. I with several friends tasted three version of Zombie – Spievac, DeGroff but Trader Vic`s Zombie is champ. Now I admire have just a taste of you Zombie`s.

  • vinnie

    April 29, 2010, 02:55

    try this, it rocks:

    Vinnie’s Paralyser

    add to steel shaker ice cubes, 30 ml Bacardi 8, 15 ml each bacardi superior and bacardi coco or Malibu, teaspoon of brown sugar 60 ml pineapple juice 30 ml ea lemon lime and orange juices. roll with the ice cubes and pour into long glass. top up with cold soda water, stir, add a dash of Schweppes raspberry cordial for a sunset look, serve garnished with rimmed slice of yellow nectarines and lime wedge, straw

  • Banjolele Grotto

    July 6, 2010, 13:31

    I’m late to this post, but can’t resist chipping in with one of my favorite Donn Beach recipes, the Nui Nui. You can find the recipe here: http://antifogmatic.org/2010/02/22/happy-birthday-donn/

  • Rebecca Bond

    July 17, 2011, 17:04

    How can I make this in mass quantity for a party of about 20?

  • Greg Bright

    June 22, 2012, 20:58

    Maybe 40 years ago I used to make Zombies from a recipe in Grossman’s Guide to Wine and Spirits. It tasted very much like the Zombies I enjoyed at Don the Beachcomber in Chicago across the street from the Playboy Club in the late 1960s. I can’t seem to find the book today, but I do remember that Mr. Grossman said that the recipe came from a restaurant/bar in the Far East Pacific Rim. Really good if not totally authentic. Got some Lemon Hart 151 waiting for me nearby. Everything else should be a piece of cake.

  • Capt. Bruce

    September 4, 2012, 18:48

    I’m a sailboat charter owner/captain in the Florida Keys and Bahamas. I’ve been looking for this recipe for the past two years and finally tonight stumbled upon your blog. I can’t wait to to try this! I’m a semi-foodie and enjoy cooking really interesting meals for my guests, but my goal has been to find fantastic cocktails to pair with my different meals. I know where I can get all of the ingredients for the Falernum, and to have the recipe for Don’s Mix is going to really keep my guests guessing! Thanks for your posts, and I’ll try to post again when I have the first chance to serve this to my guests!! The cinnamon simple syrup is going to be the key I think!!

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