*LUPEC Boston’s latest ruminations, in case you missed ‘em in this week’s Dig.
by Pink Lady
Our big fall fundraiser, the LUPEC Boston Tiki Bash, is just a few weeks away, and LUPEC’s thinking Tiki! Last week we discussed the Mai Tai, that simple and delicious blend of dark rum, orgeat, lime, and curacao that was a cornerstone of the Tiki craze. Did Donn Beach invent this drink, or Trader Vic? Who knows. This week, we turn our attention to a considerably more complex concoction, the Zombie. We’re certain Donn Beach invented this one – and took the original recipe with him to the grave.
As the story goes, Donn Beach (née Ernest Beaumont-Gantt) invented the Zombie in the 1930s for an aviophobic friend taking a tipple at Don the Beachcomber’s before a flight to San Francisco…or was it a friend trying to overcome a hangover before an important business meeting? In any case, the guest had three of these high-test concoctions before (presumably) stumbling off for his flight/meeting/what have you. He returned a few days later to report: the drinks made him feel like the living dead for days thereafter. And the Zombie was born.
The Zombie became a signature cocktail at the Hurricane Bar at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City and enjoyed great popularity there. The drink went on to become a staple of Tiki joints that sprang up across the US, such as Trader Vic’s and, of course, Don the Beachcomber’s, where a 2-drink maximum policy was instituted.
Donn Beach was notoriously secretive about his cocktail recipes, creating special mixes for his bartenders that boasted numbers rather than names, keeping even the staff in the dark about his signature drinks. Imitations emerged in other Tiki joints, and Donn himself very likely noodled with the original recipe over time to accommodate new products or lack of available ingredients in certain markets. Countless recipes now exist, making it virtually impossible to pin down an original with which to craft a true artifact version for home consumption.
Tiki expert Jeff “Beachbum” Berry appears to have come the closest in excavating an original recipe through interviews with former staff from Don the Beachcomber’s. Poring over personal notes kept by these waiters and bartenders from their days behind the stick, several are published in his book, Sippin’ Safari. A variation via Dale DeGroff is below.
Adapted from The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff
1.5 oz medium-bodied Jamaican rum
.5 oz 151-proof Demerara rum
.25 oz Velvet Falernum
.5 oz Donn’s Mix #1
1.5 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
.75 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon grenadine
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 drops Absinthe
Mint sprigs for garnish
Combine with crushed ice in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Pour into a chimney glass, topping with crushed ice to fill the glass. Garnish with mint.
DONN’S MIX #1
2 parts fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 part Cinnamon Syrup (below)
Combine the grapefruit juice with syrup and shake well. Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
5 cinnamon sticks, each about 2 inches long
20 oz. bottled or filtered water
1 quart sugar
Break the cinnamon sticks into pieces to create more surface area. Put the cinnamon, water, and sugar in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved, and then reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool completely, then bottle; keep covered in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Makes 2 cups.