Zombie – Recipe Comparison


The Zombie is a drink with a bit of mystery behind it. Purportedly created by Don the Beachcomber to revive (read: kill) a hungover businessman, the recipe has found its way into countless cocktail guides, but rarely will you find its page stained from overuse. Many have tried to recreate Don’s signature recipe, and most have failed, but I’ve selected six recipes that are promising. They all come from your favorite superhero cocktailians.

Beachbum Berry

  • 1oz lime juice
  • 3/4oz pineapple juice
  • 3/4oz papaya nectar
  • 1/2oz applejack
  • 1T powdered sugar
  • 1oz dark Jamaican rum (Myer’s)
  • 2oz Barbados rum (Mount Gay)
  • 1oz light Puerto Rican rum (Brugal)
  • 1/2oz 151 Demerara rum (Lemon Hart)

Shake everything – except Demerara – with ice. Pour into a tall glass, fill with ice, and float the demerara on top. Garnish with a cocktail cherry, pineapple slice, and a sprig of mint if you desire. Sprinkly powdered sugar over the top.

Grog Log, Jeff Berry

The first blast of flavor is a powerful one, and one that is full of rum. This drink is clearly not for the faint of heart. It packs nearly 5 1/2oz of 80 proof spirits! The subtle note of applejack is a nice touch and definitely improves the drink. I’m not sure if the powdered sugar in the drink made a difference, but it sure took longer to shake that baby up.

Gary Regan v2

  • 1oz lime juice
  • 3/4oz pineapple juice
  • 3/4oz papaya nectar
  • 3/4oz applejack
  • 1/2oz simple syrup
  • 1oz dark rum (Gosling’s)
  • 1 1/2oz anejo rum (Bacardi Gold)
  • 1 1/2oz light rum (Brugal)
  • 1/2oz 151-proof rum (Lemon Hart)

The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan

The extra 1/4oz applejack and switching up of the rums makes for a super sweet version of the Zombie. Regan adapted his recipe from Jeff Berry’s, and I definitely prefer Berry’s. The rums really fade to the background, and you don’t get the complexity like you did before.

Dr. Cocktail

  • 1oz lime juice
  • 1oz lemon juice
  • 1oz pineapple juice
  • 1oz passion fruit syrup
  • 1tsp brown sugar
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1oz gold Puerto Rican rum
  • 1oz 151 proof Demerara rum
  • 1oz light Puerto Rican rum

Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, Ted Haigh

Adding passion fruit syrup to the Zombie recipe is a big win. As was the dash of bitters. They turn a drink that is interesting into one that is complex and alluring. The balance of sweet, sour, and maximum rum power is done quite well. This one is the favorite so far.

Gary Regan v1

  • 1/2oz lime juice
  • 3/4oz pineapple juice
  • 1/4oz apricot brandy
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 2oz anejo rum
  • 1oz light rum
  • 1oz dark rum
  • 1/4oz 151-proof rum

The Joy of the Cocktail, Gary Regan

I’m just not sure what to think of this recipe. The apricot brandy and lack of citrus make for a sickly sweet drink. This is, by far, my least favorite and the first to go down the drain.

Dale DeGroff

  • 1/2oz lime juice
  • 1/2oz lemon juice
  • 1 1/2oz orange juice
  • 1 1/2oz passion fruit puree
  • 1/4oz grenadine
  • 1oz orange curacao
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1oz dark rum
  • 1oz light rum

The Craft of the Cocktail, Dale DeGroff

I mentioned earlier how the Zombie was an intense drink. Dale’s version is like a little baby. It tastes good though, but a combination of lots of fruit juices and a pinch rum would be.. “A float of overproof rum is optional,” he says. Even making it mandatory results in a drink that’s way too sweet for my liking.

In Trader Vic’s Revised Bartender’s Guide, he has a very similiar recipe, only adding an extra 1/2oz of lemon juice and omitting the bitters. It’s pretty much the same fare as Dale’s; way too sweet and lacking any sort of complexity.

Which is the best recipe?

  1. Dr. Cocktail
  2. Beachbum Berry
  3. Gary Regan v2
  4. Trader Vic
  5. Dale DeGroff
  6. Gary Regan v1

Which recipe do you like the best? Do you have one that I missed?

28 Responses to “Zombie – Recipe Comparison”

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28 Comments to “ Zombie – Recipe Comparison”
  1. jimmyNo Gravatar says:

    Wow. Another excuse for me to go out and get the passionfruit syrup. I don’t know why this post didn’t show up in my RSS reader, but I’m glad I stopped by. These recipe comparisons are awesome. Thanks.

  2. RickNo Gravatar says:

    It might not have shown up because I posted it less than 30min ago!

    Definitely try Jeff’s version if you cannot wait for the passion fruit syrup. It’s quite good.


  3. MrBaliHaiNo Gravatar says:

    That same Dr. Cocktail recipe also appears in the Beachbum’s 2nd book, Intoxica, except he’s got it listed as “Don the Beachcomber Zombie”. Very odd. In any case, I prefer it to the Beachcomber Zombie in the Grog Log as well.

  4. paulNo Gravatar says:

    There’s a reason Berry lists two different recipes for the Zombie in Grog Log and Intoxica!–he found an authentic recipe. For publication of his first book, Berry used a 1934 version that attempted to replicate Don the Beachcomber’s version; after Grog Log came out, though, Berry came across a version penned by Don in 1950 (not the original version, but the version Don was mixing at that time), and this is the recipe listed in both Intoxica and Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. I agree, this is the best version I’ve tried, and you can see how this drink launched a thousand imitators. Smooth, deep and gentle, you never realize you’re drinking dynamite.

  5. CraigerNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making a Zombie for a long time now (although I think my meager collection of tiki drinkware doesn’t contain a glass large enough for it), but I was never sure if any recipe I ran across was the “definitive” one. Seeing as how there doesn’t seem to be one, I’ll go with Dr. Cocktail’s version. Fortunately, my mother-in-law bought me “Vintage Sprits & Forgotten Cocktails” for Christmas last year!

    Also, I can’t recall if I posted this before, but Trader Vic’s has a selection of flavored syrups available online in case you can’t find any near home:


    And as usual, a gorgeous photo Rick!

  6. MrBaliHaiNo Gravatar says:

    @paul: thanks for the clarification. The Intoxica version is definitely an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove.

  7. MrBaliHaiNo Gravatar says:

    By the way, there’s another Zombie recipe that claims to be a Don original, it appears on page 56 of Hawai’i: Tropical Rum Drinks and Cuisine, written in 2001 by Don’s last wife, Phoebe. It’s a pretty exotic concoction:

    3/4 oz. lime juice
    1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
    1/2 oz. Falernum
    1/2 oz. simple syrup
    1 1/4 oz. Ramirez Royal Superior(Puerto Rico)
    1 oz. Lemon Hart Demerara 151
    1 oz. Palau Rum (30-year old Cuban)
    1 oz. Myers Planter’s Punch (Jamaican)
    1 oz. Treasure Cove (32-year old Jamaican)
    2 dashes each of Angostura bitters and Pernod
    1 dash Absinthe
    3 dashes grenadine
    3/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur

    Needless to say, I don’t have the necessary ingredients on hand to mix one up and give it a try.

  8. MartikiNo Gravatar says:

    Here at Forrbidden Island, Alameda, CA we serve the Intoxica/Dr. Cocktail Version that Jeff Berry unearthed. It’s truly outstanding- and yes, we use only fresh squeezed juice and premium spirits to do it. Come visit us some time and try one.


    I’ve made the Jeff Berry one from the Grog Log many times, and it’s OK, but not nearly as good as the one he subsequently found. In fact, I won a Zombie mix-off with the Intoxica recipe a few years back.

    The one in the Hawai’i: Tropical Rum Drinks and Cuisine book is revolting, by the way. Don’t bother.

  9. RickNo Gravatar says:


    Nice place! I just checked out your website, and I’m now very jealous of my friend, Adam, who lives in San Francisco. I’ve put in a formal request that he visit. I’m sure I will when I’m in the area too.

  10. MrBaliHaiNo Gravatar says:

    @Marktiki: with all that Pernod in it, I’m not surprised it’s revolting! Forbidden Island is definitely on my “must-visit” list. Unfortunately, no trips to the Bay Area are in my future this year.

  11. erik_flannestadNo Gravatar says:


    Nice looking menu, and my friends tell me you have Project Pimento on the jukebox.

    Live in SF, and will plan a field trip over to Alameda in the near future.

    I’ve been meaning to visit St. George Spirits, as well, so it should be a fun trip.

    The only tricky part will be the designated driver. Too bad that darn ferry stops so early.

  12. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    For the benefit of all SF Bay Area types present, I point you toward the impending “Tiki Weekend,” which includes a stop at Forbidden Island:


    I’ll be there, and I’m happy to share embarassing stories about Rick to anyone who asks! Har har har!

  13. SinjinNo Gravatar says:

    I fell obligated to point out that Charles H. Baker, Jr. claims that he discovered a drink called the Zombie before Donn Beach started making his. The recipe bares no resemblance at all to the cocktail known today as the Zombie, so this post should only be seen as a footnote to the above discussion. Here’s the quote, slightly abridged, from The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 2, originally published in 1939:


    Any one who knows his Haiti and his Vaudou knows what a Zombie is; and for those who don’t, a Zombie is merely a departed brother who, for reasons not generally attractive, has been called back from the Spirit World, labours without pay, without food, without complaint, in a weird sort of spirit bondage…We have just helped “spring” an artist friend, Christopher Clark, from a five months’ stay in Cap haitien, where he ahd been soaking up material and madly painting the unbelievable scenery and even more unbelieveable people of Haiti…Chris brought back a long list of amazing cookery receipts, too late for this volume, but we are squeezing in this Zombie Cocktail, he claiming that it will put the spirits to work for you, but whether they or ourselves, are in bondage, is something for each man to decide according to occasion and the needs thereof.

    Enriched coconut milk, see below, 1 1/2 cups or so
    Cognac, 3 jiggers
    Maraschino, 2 ponies
    Angostura, 2 or 3 dashes
    Very finely cracked or shaved ice

    Put in shaker with lots of finely cracked ice, shake hard and turn ice and all–a la Daiquiri–into small, chilled goblets…Another variation, and a much better flavoured one we find, is found by using only two jiggers cognac, and one jigger old Haitian–or other medium dark–rum.

    Enriched cocnut milk: Get a ripe cocnut anywhere. Bore two holes in eyes and drain out water into saucepan–being careful to strain out fibers or bits of shell…Crack open nut, peel off brown outer skin from kernel, and either grate, grind, or cut up fine and add to water…Fetch to a simmer for five minutes. Put through a fine cloth, squeezing out the final rich cream by hand..

    *It may be of some mild interest to our Lodge of Amiable Amateur Mixers that the Zombie formula set on this page was put to paper in the fall of ’35; whereas that high-proof so-called Zombie known to most bar men did not raise its dizzy head until two years, or better, later. Author.

  14. RickNo Gravatar says:


    Thank you kindly for this. I actually thought of including Mr. Baker’s recipe but didn’t for reasons unknown to me now. Has anyone actually tried this?

  15. EricNo Gravatar says:

    Rick, I really like the cocktail comparison posts. Plus, it give one an easy excuse to have six drinks instead of one!

  16. Lesley PriceNo Gravatar says:

    I will try all of these and let you know my favorite, if I can type after
    that. I will also put a link to my favorite on my daily recipe

  17. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent. I look forward to hearing what you think.

  18. Its funny that Don the Beachcomber claimed to invent the Zombie in 1934 without a shred of evidence, and yet people like Beachbum Berry just take him on his word, or should I say the word of his bitter widow.

    If Don the Beachcomber really invented the Zombie in 1934 then what was it doing in a book published in 1934 (Patrick Gavin Duffy); recipes have to become popular first, then they are published in someone elses book.

    Initially Beachbum Berry showed some common sense and listed Patrick Gavin Duffy’s 1934 Zombie recipe in Grog Log; then Berry decide to believe the hype and then decided to publish the Phoebe Beach recipe as THE Zombie.


  19. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Hi George,

    Excellent analysis. I must admit, it’s much more important to me how well the recipe tastes than who came up with it. I’d be interested to hear from other folk if they differ in opinion as to the origins of the Zombie, though I fear, like many other cocktails, it will remain a mystery like so many others.

  20. DemonNo Gravatar says:

    So which one is the “intoxica” recipe?

  21. TonyNo Gravatar says:

    It may be a sissy drink to some, but I absolutely love Bacardi’s pre-mixed Zombie.
    Is there anyone out there that either has the recipe or knows the recipe that tastes most like it?
    I would love to be able to make these myself instead of forking over $15 for a 1.75 litre.

  22. Scott RichardsNo Gravatar says:

    Patrick Duffy’s recipe from 1934 doesn’t resemble any of the Don the Beachcomber recipes at all. Either one man took the cocktail name from the other, or they both came up with the name simultaneously. Either way, they’re very different cocktails.

    Get Beachbum Berry’s latest book “Sippin’ Safari.” I think this will be the last word on what constitutes a Zombie.

    Don the Beachcomber Zombie
    ¾ oz lime juice
    ½ oz grapefruit juice
    ¼ oz falernum
    1 oz Jamaican dark rum
    1¼ oz Puerto Rican gold rum
    1 oz Demerara 151
    2 dashes Angostura bitters
    6 drops Pernod
    ¼ oz grenadine
    1½ oz pineapple juice
    ¾ oz maraschino liqueur

    Put all in blender with ice. Blend for 5 seconds. Pour into glass and garnish with mint sprig.

  23. Jason WickedlyNo Gravatar says:

    The Bacardi pre-mixed Zombie is a Blue Hawaiian, as far as I can tell. 3/4 oz blue curacao, 1 oz vodka, 1 oz Bacardi Light Rum, 1 oz. sweet and sour, 3 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice. Shake with ice.

  24. Neil HobbsNo Gravatar says:

    Wow. The Dr. Cocktail recipe was amazing, if a tad on the fruity side. I loved it. Definitely complex and devastating. Am looking for a Zombie recipe that allows for a layering effect, so the drink has an eerie tri-color shimmer, similar to the one achieved by Nell Carter in the movie ‘Modern Problems,’ when she serves her guests a tray of Zombies, and Chevy Chase downs the drink all at once.

  25. TimNo Gravatar says:


    has a nice chronology of the various drink recipes.

    My favorite is the 1956 version, listed above by Scott Richards. I’ll typically add 1/4 oz. Falernum (for 1/2 oz. total), 1/2 oz. Orgeat Syrup, and a little more gold rum.

    Bottoms up!

  26. Scott RichardsNo Gravatar says:

    Jason — I believe you mean “Blue Hawaii” rather than “Blue Hawaiian.” They’re similar, but different cocktails.


    Blue Hawaii
    3 oz. Pineapple juice
    1 oz. Sweet & sour mix
    1/2 oz. Blue Curacao
    3/4 oz. Vodka
    3/4 oz. Light rum

    Blue Hawaiian
    1 oz Light Rum
    1 oz Blue Curacao
    2 oz Pineapple Juice
    1 oz Cream of Coconut

  27. galinNo Gravatar says:

    tasted the version with grapefruit,falernum,absinthe,lime,marascino and blend of nine rums at Kanaloa http://www.kanaloaclub.com/ the other night. As i don’t know the exact ingredients i cant be absolutely sure but i think it must’ve been the Phoebes recipe. it was divinely smooth. i sipped it for 45 minutes and the first sip was just as good as the last. rich, complex and powerful. probably a bit sweet but then it has to be with that much ABV. i opted for Papa Double for second drink. Two zombies after hard days work would have been indulgence too far i thought.

  28. […] seems to be more about scribbled notes than printed volumes, but I have seen upwards of 20 different recipes all claiming to be a […]

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

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