My friends were throwing a zombie-themed Easter party (raising from the dead, get it?) and planned cocktails to serve at it. They had a Painkiller, Hemmingway Daiquiri, and Dark n' Stormy on the menu. Obviously something was missing: the Zombie.
As they went shopping for booze and mixers, my friend kept texting me about specific ingredients. Grenadine? Oh just make that with POM Wonderful and sugar. Cinnamon syrup? You can borrow mine. Passionfruit syrup- wait a minute, that's not in my Zombie recipe...
The Zombie is one of those drinks with a long history and an obscured recipe due to secret ingredients, as tiki bar owners back in the day had to prevent staff poaching by not even sharing their drink recipes with their own bartenders. They'd have to use "Don's Mix" in certain quantities rather than grapefruit-cinnamon syrup, which is what Don's Mix turns out to be. Because of this, every bar offered its own take on the Zombie so even in the 1940s there were tons of recipes for one drink.
How do we know this, and the real Zombie recipe? Because Jeff Beachbum Berry tracked down people who knew the recipe, and the history of this and other tiki cocktails.
I used the Bum's latest book, Beachbum Berry Remixed, to find the recipe for the Zombie served at Easter. I actually made two different versions; the original (3 rums, 2 liqueurs, 2 syrups, bitters, lime) and the Simplified Zombie (2 juices, one syrup, two rums). There are three other Zombie variations listed in the book, but I figured two were plenty. The drinks were a hit and Easter was saved.
Another classic tiki drink with many variations is the Mai Tai. Beachbum writes in the book about the history of the drink, which was contested by Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic. It may be the case the Trader Vic's recipe was inspired by one of Don's, but not Don's Mai Tai. It's an interesting history, and one that the Bum speaks about at different events.
He'll next be at Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco giving the talk April 24 and 25. The tickets may be sold out already: check here.