Attack of the Zombie: Perfectly Potent Halloween Punch


28 Days” … or “28 Days Later”? Frankly, I find the idea of rehab exponentially more frightening than a whole graveyard full of reanimated corpses. So I say break out the bottles of rum and embrace the Zombie.

With Halloween around the corner, it’s the perfect time to throw a tiki party. The colorful presentation lends itself to the holiday, as do the associated drink names: Missionary’s Downfall, Scorpion, Blackbeard’s Ghost, Sidewinder’s Fang and so forth. But none is as fun — or alcohol-packed — as the Zombie. (Plus, “Zombieland” was a modest hit in theaters recently, so the appeal is still there.)

It is said this classic tiki libation was created by legendary cocktail master Don the Beachcomber in the late ’30s as he tried to cure a patron’s hangover that was lingering from vomitous morning to head-throbbing afternoon. Don — apparently a believer in not only the hair of the dog that bit you but the canine’s full hide — did this with a combination of rum and fruit juices so potent that the imbiber insisted he had left hangover hell and entered a whole new world of the living dead.

This is certainly a drink with bite. Don was said to use an astonishing 7.5 ounces of rum in his version, and he limited guests at his restaurant to two. Of course, there’s no limit when you make these babies at home — and they’ll take you from sober to super to soused in no time after a hard day at work.

The recipe I offer makes a double. You can cut it in half or multiply it for a party punch, if you use the basic guideline of one part rum to one part fruit juice to a half part sweetener. Similar rums can be substituted based on availability (for example, the 120 proof can simply become 1/2 oz. each more of the gold and white).

Since Don the Beachcomber guarded his original recipe closely, there have been various mutations of the Zombie. Some use papaya juice; some use the hard-to-find falernum syrup or a sweetener mix of grapefruit juice and cinnamon syrup. Any way you make it, it’s a complicated drink that will probably involve a bit of shopping. Avoid the ubiquitous Bacardi if you can. Cruzan and Appleton both make affordable — and decidedly more palatable — rums

This is a recipe I adapted from tropical drink expert Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and I have tested it at home myself. (The things I do for the reader).


• 1 oz. white rum, such as Cruzan or Appleton
• 1 oz. gold rum, such as Cruzan (for some reason called Cruzan dark) or Appleton
• 1 oz. dark rum, such as Gosling’s Black Seal or Coruba
•1 oz. Cruzan Clipper (a 120-proof amber rum)
• 3 oz. fresh citrus (If you use a large lemon — I prefer meyer lemons if they’re in season — and a large lime, that should work. A bit of grapefruit juice can be substituted, but keep a dominance of lime juice)
• 1 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
• 1/2 oz. creme de banane
• 1/2 oz. apricot brandy
• 1/2 oz. passion fruit syrup
• 1/4 oz. grenadine
• 1 tsp. or so brown sugar, depending on desired level of sweetness

Shake all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker, then pour into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. For an extra kick, float an optional 1/2 oz. or more Demarara rum on top (I use Lemon Hart, a 151-proof version of the Guyana spirit). Garnish with a lime wedge and a cherry or a fresh mint sprig.

So mix yourself one of these and put on a George Romero movie — or for that matter put on The Zombies’ album “Odessey and Oracle.” With all the tasty rum in your system, whether you watch the walking dead or listen to 1960s psychedelic rock music won’t matter much.

Colin Powers is a Madison, Wisconsin-based editor and graphic designer. He has more than a dozen years of newspaper experience, including a stint as Life and Arts Editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — where he also oversaw food and drink coverage — before its demise in March.


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