Zombie Drink

The Zombie cocktail is a classic tiki drink made with not one, not two, but three types of rum. Potent and flavorful, too many of these tropical drinks might have you feeling like a zombie the next day. Make this drink for a tropical pool party or serve it up as a Halloween cocktail.

A Zombie Drink in a glass tiki cocktail mug.

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Zombie drink recipe

If you’re a tiki fan or a rum aficionado, you’ve got to get to know the Zombie drink. This tiki cocktail is made with three types of rum and it’s full of flavor.

Along with the Mai Tai and Painkiller, the Zombie is a drink you’ll see on the menu of tiki bars.

But be careful — this drink is very potent, so be sure to hydrate and don’t have too many! It gets its name because too many might have you feeling like a zombie the day after.

Whether you’re looking for a great tiki drink to serve at a beach-themed backyard party or a spooky drink to serve at a Halloween party, the Zombie answers the call.

More Halloween recipes: Vampiro DrinkDevil’s MargaritaBlack Magic Champagne Cocktail

A Zombie Drink with orange slices and mint leaves.

Why you’ll love this recipe

You are going to adore this classic tiki cocktail recipe:

  • The Zombie cocktail is beachy, tropical and oh-so-delicious.
  • Even though it contains a lot of ingredients, it’s very easy to make at home.
  • It’s an excellent classic cocktail every tiki lover should try once.

Though this beachy behemoth of a drink probably tastes best at a seaside tiki bar, you can also enjoy Zombies by the pool, at a backyard luau or even at a Halloween party.

Two Zombie drinks on rattan coasters.

What is the Zombie drink?

The Zombie is a sweet tiki cocktail made with three types of rum, fruit juices, spices and bitters. It’s a complicated cocktail with a long list of ingredients, but it’s not difficult to put together.

Invented in 1934 by Donn Beach — AKA Donn the Beachcomber, often credited for founding tiki culture — the Zombie has a few origin stories.

According to the book Smuggler’s Cove by Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate, one theory suggests Beach created the drink after months of research — and lots of rum. Another story goes that it was a quick concoction he served to a hung-over traveling businessman who needed a drink to get through a tough meeting. Cate wrote:

“Allegedly, the customer later reported back to Donn that he ‘felt like the living dead —it made a zombie out of me!'”

— Smuggler’s Cove by Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate

The Zombie was one of Beach’s most popular cocktails. He even appended the restaurant’s menu to read “limit of two” because the drink was so strong. Beach’s clever marketing ploy dared guests to challenge the limit and purchase more drinks.

Beach was notorious for keeping his recipes a secret, but many bars tried to copy the drink, so there are a number of knock-off recipes out there. Some of the guessed ingredients include passion fruit syrup, orange juice, pineapple juice and apricot brandy.

However, tiki historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry unearthed the original recipe and the complete list of ingredients including Beach’s special ingredient: cinnamon syrup.

Two glasses of a Zombie Drink with orange slices and mint leaves.

Tools & glassware

To make a Zombie, you will need a basic bartending set with a jigger, cocktail shaker and a Hawthorne strainer.

You might also want a skull cocktail pick with which to spear the cocktail cherries.

For glassware, you can really serve it in any highball glass or tiki mug, but a tiki glass will make them feel more on-brand. I used these glasses with tiki designs.

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Ingredients

Here is what you will need to make this Zombie cocktail recipe at home:

  • dark rum
  • gold rum 
  • overproof demerara rum
  • fresh lime juice
  • fresh grapefruit juice
  • falernum
  • cinnamon syrup
  • grenadine
  • angostura bitters
  • ice (crushed ice or ice cubes) 
  • fresh mint sprig, for garnish
  • orange slice, for garnish
  • cocktail cherry, for garnish (not a maraschino cherry)

Some recipes will have you finish the drink with a spritz or splash of Pernod, an expensive absinthe. This is optional, but if you have it, go for it!

The original Zombie recipe used a secret ingredient called Donn’s mix, made with sugar, water, grapefruit juice and crushed cinnamon sticks. This recipe uses cinnamon syrup and fresh grapefruit juice instead, but you could replace them with your own Donn’s mix.  

How to make a Zombie cocktail

Even though the ingredient list is long, you can easily make a Zombie drink in a few simple steps:

A Zombie Drink being poured into a glass with mint leaves.
Bitters being dropped into a glass of red drink.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine dark rum, gold rum, demerara overproof rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, falernum, cinnamon syrup and grenadine.

Shake well and strain into a tall tiki mug filled with ice.

Top with a dash or two Angostura bitters. If you like, you can add a few drops of absinthe like Pernod as well.

Finally, finish off the drink with garnishes. Spear one or two Luxardo cherries on a cocktail pick and place in the drink. Add some fresh mint and perch an orange slice on the rim of the glass. Serve with a straw if you like. Cheers!

Two glasses of a Zombie Drink with orange slices mint leaves, and cocktail cherries speared on a skull cocktail pick.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making this recipe:

  • For the freshest taste, use fresh citrus juices from lime and grapefruit. (I use an electric juicer.)
  • Cut costs and increase flavor by preparing some of your own cocktail ingredients, like cinnamon simple syrup and homemade grenadine. Both are made on the stove: cinnamon syrup by infusing cinnamon sticks with water and sugar, and grenadine with sugar and pomegranate juice. 
  • Tiki drinks are famous for their lavish garnishes. Be sure to top your drink off with homemade cocktail cherries, fresh mint and a slice of orange or lime.

What to serve with a Zombie drink

Tiki drinks like the classic Zombie cocktail are delicious with your favorite tropical foods that feature pineapple and coconut.

Start the meal with a Zombie plus a tray of chips and pineapple salsa or fruit salsa. A pineapple cheese ball would also be a great companion.

For dinner, enjoy some popcorn shrimp or grilled Hawaiian chicken.

And for dessert, some coconut tres leches cake or some boozy dole whip.

A red cocktail with orange juice and mint leaves on a marble table.

FAQ

Why is it called a zombie cocktail?

Made with three types of rum, the Zombie cocktail contains nearly 5 ounces of alcohol. The inventor of the drink, Donn Beach, so-called the drink the Zombie because of how potent the drink is.

How much alcohol does a Zombie drink have?

The Zombie cocktail contains 4 to 5 ounces of alcohol.

More tiki drinks

— Did you make this recipe? —

Please leave a ★★★★★ review or comment below.

A red cocktail with orange juice and mint leaves on a marble table.

Zombie Drink

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
The Zombie Drink is a pleasantly potent tiki drink made with three types of rum. It's a classic cocktail every tiki lover has to try.
5 from 1 vote
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ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounce dark rum
  • 1 ½ ounce gold rum
  • 1 ounce demerara overproof rum
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • ½ ounce falernum
  • ¼ ounce cinnamon syrup
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 3 drops absinthe such as Pernod, optional
  • 1 sprig fresh mint for garnish
  • 2 cocktail cherries for garnish
  • 1 orange slice for garnish

instructions

  • In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine dark rum, gold rum, demerara overproof rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, falernum, cinnamon syrup and grenadine.
  • Shake well and strain into a tall tiki mug filled with ice.
  • Add a dash of Angostura bitters over top of the drink.
  • If desired, add a few drops of Pernod as well.
  • Lastly, garnish the drink. Spear one or two Luxardo cherries on a cocktail pick and place on top of the drink. Add some fresh mint and perch an orange slice on the rim of the glass.
  • Serve immediately with a straw if you like.

notes

  • For the freshest taste, use fresh citrus juices from lime and grapefruit. 
  • Cut costs and increase flavor by preparing some of your own cocktail ingredients, like cinnamon simple syrup and homemade grenadine.
  • Tiki drinks are famous for their lavish garnishes. Be sure to top your drink off with homemade cocktail cherries, fresh mint and a slice of orange or lime.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 drink

amount per serving:

Serving: 6.5ounces Calories: 384kcal Carbohydrates: 30g Protein: 0.4g Fat: 0.1g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03g Sodium: 17mg Potassium: 105mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 26g Vitamin A: 91IU Vitamin C: 20mg Calcium: 21mg Iron: 1mg
did you make this recipe?Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #feastandwestrecipes!

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