Zombie Cocktail

You’ll need ten Zombie cocktail ingredients to make this drink, but it’s worth it! This fun rum cocktail is tropical, fruity…and potent.

Zombie Cocktail

Here’s a rum cocktail that’s completely over the top…but worth it if you’re an adventurous home bartender. Meet the Zombie cocktail! This drink packs a potent punch, with four types of rum, three fruit juices and two fruit syrups. It’s totally unnecessary…but then again, that makes it more fun! While it’s got a 1970’s vibe, this cocktail actually comes from the 1930’s and was one of the first of its kind. Here’s what you need to know about the special ingredients and how to whip up this special mixed drink!

History of the Zombie cocktail…it’s older than you think!

The Zombie cocktail is a mixed drink made with various types of rum, fruit juices and syrups. With the tropical tiki rum drink vibe, you might think it was a 1960’s or 1970’s drink. But it was invented in 1934 by a Donn Beach at his Hollywood restaurant called Don the Beachcomber.

The story goes that Donn invented the drink for a hung over customer to get through a business meeting. The customer later complained the drink was so strong, it turned him into a “zombie.” The concept reminds us of the Corpse Reviver, a drink so strong it would revive someone from the dead…but the opposite!

Zombie cocktail

Zombie cocktail ingredients

The recipe for the Zombie cocktail was kept secret through the years. Many restaurants and bars tried to copy it, and it became popular at tiki restaurants. (Since Tiki culture is built on appropriation, we won’t exalt the virtues of that phenomenon!)

The Zombie went on to became such a standard that it’s now on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails! This means that it has an “official” definition. However, the original recipe has some very unique ingredients that are very hard to find: Pernod, falernum, and Donn’s mix (grapefruit and cinnamon syrup). Because of this and because there’s a wide variation in the way bartenders make a Zombie, we put our own spin on the drink using common substitutes. The Zombie cocktail ingredients list is one of the longest of any of the popular cocktails. You’ll need:

  • White rum
  • Spiced rum
  • Dark rum
  • 151 rum (optional)
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Passion fruit syrup
  • Orange bitters
  • Grenadine

Let’s talk through some of the ingredients, shall we?

Four types of rum make the drink!

This is the only rum cocktail we’ve made that calls for a whopping four types of rum! Most rum drinks use white rum, aged rum (also called golden), or dark rum. But the Zombie calls for two other types: spiced rum and 151 rum, though the former is optional. Here’s a bit more about these types of rum:

  • Spiced rum: Spiced rum is usually aged about the same time as black rum, and it has spices added like cloves and cinnamon. We used Capitan Morgan brand for this drink.
  • 151 rum (optional): 151 rum is a high-alcohol content rum. It’s 151 proof of a whopping 75% alcohol, instead of 40% alcohol like most rums. Bacardi 151 was a popular version of this rum, but it was discontinued in 2006. We used Cruzan 151, though Gosling’s Black Seal Dark 151 Rum is also a good choice. Because 151 rum is so high in alcohol, some people light this drink on fire! We tried but couldn’t get a good flame going. Experiment at your own risk.

Unlike white, aged and dark rum, aren’t many other cocktails that use spiced and 151 rum. They’re definitely a special purchase for the Zombie cocktail!

Dark rum

Another special ingredient: passion fruit syrup!

The fruit juices in the Zombie cocktail are easy to find: buy a lime, a lemon, and a jar of pineapple juice. But the syrups are where things get interesting! The most unique non-alcoholic ingredient in the Zombie is passion fruit syrup. Here’s what to know about this special ingredient:

  • Passion fruit syrup is a syrup made from passion fruit pulp and sugar. It’s a burst of tropical, sweet tart and fruity flavor.
  • What is a substitute for passion fruit syrup? Passion fruit has such a unique flavor that there’s really no substitute! If you want to make a Zombie cocktail, you have to make it right! Passion fruit is required for that signature flavor.
  • Where to buy passion fruit syrup? We bought this Monin Passion Fruit Syrup online. You could also look at your local liquor store.
  • What other cocktails use passion fruit syrup? The most famous is the Hurricane, a popular New Orleans cocktail.
Passion fruit syrup

Grenadine completes the drink

Lastly, you’ll need grenadine to make a Zombie cocktail! Luckily this ingredient is much more common. In our opinion, you could leave this one out without destroying the character of the drink. But

  • Grenadine is a sweet tart syrup used in cocktails that’s bright red in color. It’s made out of pomegranate juice.
  • Where to find grenadine? It’s easy to find at liquor stores, but often it has lots of artificial flavors and colorings. These days you can look for all natural grenadine, or make grenadine at home.
  • What other cocktails have grenadine? It’s most famous in grenadine cocktails like the Shirley TempleTequila Sunrise, and Singapore Sling.

How to make a Zombie cocktail

Phew, that was a lot of ingredients! Once you’ve compiled everything, it’s smooth sailing. It just takes a while to measure out the 10 ingredients. Shake them up, then float the grenadine and rum. Here’s what to do:

  • Shake in a cocktail shaker. Place all ingredients except the 151 rum and grenadine in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. (Don’t have one? Use a mason jar!) Strain it into a glass.
  • Add the grenadine and 151 rum. Pour the grenadine into the drink and it will settle to the bottom. Pour the 151 rum on top of the drink, and it will settle in a single layer. Because 151 rum has such
  • Strain into a glass and garnish. Strain the drink into a lowball glass. The traditional garnish is fresh mint and a lime wedge. Many Mai Tai drinks also have pineapple and cocktail cherries as a garnish, so we added that here too: just for kicks!
Zombie cocktail

When to serve a Zombie

The Zombie cocktail is a festive and fun drink, great for parties or impressing guests! It’s great as a:

  • Summer drink
  • Signature drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
  • Party drink
  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
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Zombie Cocktail

THE Zombie Cocktail


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

You’ll need ten Zombie cocktail ingredients to make this drink, but it’s worth it! This fun rum cocktail is tropical, fruity…and potent.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ounce* white rum
  • 1 ounce spiced rum
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce passion fruit syrup (we used Monin Passion Fruit Syrup)
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine
  • 1/2 ounce 151 rum (optional)
  • Ice, for serving (try clear ice)
  • For the garnish: Fresh mint

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients except for the grenadine and 151 rum in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 handfuls ice and shake until cold.
  2. Strain into an ice filled highball glass. Pour the grenadine into the drink over the back of spoon: it will sink to the bottom. Then if using, pour the 151 rum over back of spoon onto the drink: it will float on top. Add the fresh mint garnish and serve. 

Notes

*1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Zombie cocktail, Zombie cocktail ingredients

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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