The Zombie, what a genius cocktail. Its nuance is most often destroyed by overzealous bartenders ready to overcharge customers who just want to get obliterated. Likely you’ve seen the Zombie on a list of vaguely tiki-themed drinks, possibly with warning signs and/or skulls dotted around it. However, if you take the time to find a careful bartender or a bar that isn’t drenched in leis, the Zombie’s layered flavors will shine just like Don the Beachcomber intended. (If you like Planter’s Punch, you will love and appreciate the Zombie).
Just putting it out there, you could even try to make one yourself (hint, hint). I know, I know, you’re gonna have to make a simple syrup. You’ll need to find Velvet Falernum and absinthe and three different kinds of rum. “What even is Velvet Falernum??” I am SO GLAD you asked! Velvet Falernum is a sweetly spiced citrus liqueur from Barbados and is a staple in many tiki drinks. It’s delicious over ice with dark rum and a squeeze of lime, plus it has a fun name. On to the absinthe (I see your eyes getting worried). You can also use Pernod or Herbsaint if you prefer. I will later get on my soapbox about how absinthe was unfairly demonized and will not turn you into a hallucinating witch that will murder all your loved ones. It’s fine, you’ll be fine, we are all going to be fine. Now, three rums! Please stay with me. “This is going to be so expensive!,” you whine. So are Zombies in a bar, and yours will taste nicer, plus you can brag to visitors about your extensive collection of delicious rums. The first rum will be a golden one from Puerto Rico, the second is an aged Jamaican rum, and the third is a Demerara 151 rum. Don the Beachcomber (a.k.a Donn Beach a.k.a. former U.S. Navy sailor in the South Pacific a.k.a. one of the founders of the Tiki cocktail movement in the 1930s a.k.a. Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) developed a healthy admiration for Caribbean rums during his teenage bootlegging years. Just living the average teen dream, this guy. Once his Naval career ended, Don opened his own bar and began serving from an extensive menu of rum-based cocktails.
Now, on to Donn’s Mix, the previously-mentioned simple syrup. Take 3 cinnamon sticks, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water. Boil them in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved, then let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 2 hours before straining into a clean glass jar or bottle. Once cool, add 1 part of the syrup to 2 parts fresh grapefruit juice. YUM.
Ok, what’s next. Grenadine you will probably recognize from the Shirley Temples of your youth; if not, it’s a bright red non-alcoholic syrup flavored like pomegranate or blackcurrant or “nAtUrAl fLaVoRs” (?!?) depending on your location. Angostura bitters are bitters (duh) made predominantly with gentian and come in a dark bottle with a white label that is slightly too big for the bottle. They are excellent and everyone ought to have a bottle kicking around the house somewhere. Finally, limes. Use fresh lime juice when possible (though honestly I know you are exhausted by now after collecting all these potions so I will turn a blind eye if you want to use bottled. Nobody’s perfect).
Shake everything up in a shaker with ice. If you don’t have a shaker, put one on your shopping list (you are now a person who owns Velvet Falernum, therefore a cocktail shaker is a mandatory household good), then pour everything in a mason jar with some ice cubes, shake it up, and strain into a tall chilled glass filled with crushed ice. Add a sprig of mint and a cocktail umbrella if you’re feeling fancy. Brag on Instagram, then sit back in your most comfortable chair. Pretend you are on a warm beach instead of a cold grey concrete city (shout-out to the folks toughing out a Berlin January in town).
Ingredients & Method:
45ml (1.5 oz) Puerto Rican rum
45ml (1.5 oz) Jamaican rum
30ml (1 oz) Demerara 151 rum
15ml (0.5 oz) Donn’s Mix (grapefruit juice & cinnamon simple syrup, see above)
15ml (0.5 oz) Velvet Falernum
22ml (0.75 oz) lime juice
8ml (0.25 oz) grenadine
2 dashes of absinthe
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour into a tall chilled glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish minimally with a sprig of mint.