The Best Recipe for the Zombie

I did a search and am surprised no one addressed this before. In the Total Tiki App there are more than a half dozen versions of the Zombie. I honestly was never a fan of the drink but the Jet Pilot is my all time favorite go-to. The only big difference I see is swapping out the grenadine for cinnamon syrup (which makes the drink in my opinion). But yesterday I tried the 2007 Beachbum “simplified” version of it, and it seems closer to a Jet Pilot. Would most agree the 1934 is the best recipe even though it’s noted as an “old” version? I know Lee’s in NJ makes it with Pineapple, but unless it’s fresh, I am not a big fan of pineapple in most drinks. If anyone has their own version I’d love to test if you are willing to share.

The 1934 Zombie is a particular flavor profile, and I like it, but I understand why some don’t or prefer the Jet Pilot, which is an amazingly successful reverse engineering job.

Donn tinkered with his Zombies and even deviated significantly with it: I like his 1950 version a lot.

The 1934 and 1950 recipes are specific ones we can point to from Donn himself, and as luck would have it, we can actually make these drinks. His streamlined 1964 recipe for the Aku-Aku is also interesting, shooting for the 1934’s profile. There are a lot of other “zombies” out there. I don’t think there’s a “best recipe” per se.


With a lot of the big name tiki classics I tend to follow this order of quality:

Best: the oldest/classic. There’s a reason that there are so many recipes: everyone loved the classic and was trying to copy it.

Good: After BBB (BeachBum Berry). Anything after BBB started finding and publishing the original recipes should mean that the creater has had said classic and is just adding their own twist on the original and/or is trying to improve it.

Worst: The dark ages. (Between the classic and before BBB and the tiki revival) no one knew the original recipes and were just trying to satisy people coming in and asking for a cocktail from another bar. I’m guessing that many of these bartenders had never even tried the original and didn’t know what flavors they were trying to approximate.

This is just my opinion but I find it to be true for me more often than not. There are some notable exceptions, like the Aku-Aku Zombie which was made by Don Beach to make a more streamlined and easy to make version of the 1934 recipe.


I tend to agree with you. Not only are the classics a classic for a reason, but somethings like the paperclip and mousetrap don’t need re-invention. I guess I should have said which is YOUR (the reader) favorite rather than “the best” because that is subjective. So, if you have a a favorite recipe or variation, please post or share it. I usually beat a drink to death, recording all the variations, noting the best one, then move on to the next cocktail.

My shocking secret is that the Hamilton zombie rum recipe, from Hamilton and the Bum, has become my most-often-made zombie in the last year or so. It’s as tasty as the 1934, but simpler to make. And as much as I love sinking into a full zombie some nights, there are others where the relatively smaller dose of alcohol really is a plus.

The only thing I hate about it is being so dependent on one particular rum that could go away any time.

12 is small compared to the collection in David Montgomery’s The Zombie Horde book. Although some of those get off the beaten path a bit, but for quite a while, the Zombie was a mystery and everyone wanted to have one on the menu. Plus, classic establishments changed their recipes over the decades. The book also contains a few cocktail renaissance recipes.

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So happy to see you here Fred! I been meaning to re-connect with you. And Yes Nat, the Hamilton/Beachbum Zombie Rum is fantastic. I had some friends who said it was “ok” but they must have been sipping it straight, because in a Jet Pilot or Zombie at home is nearly as good as what I used to get at The Polynesian in NYC. I don’t know if it’s the blend of rums or if they are adding anything, but there is that subtle underlying taste that brings me to something you can only find in upscale craft tiki bars. fortunately, I was able to find 3 bottles on the shelf in North Jersey after nearly a year of not being able to get it anywhere. And as you said Nat, the problem is if it ever runs out. I will have to pay another visit to that particular store and stock up if I can, because it is an incredible replacement in a single bottle.