The Zombie, (also known as skull-puncher), is a cocktail made of fruit juices, liqueurs, and various rums, so named for its perceived effects upon the drinker. It first appeared in the late 1930s, invented by Donn Beach (formerly Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gannt) of Hollywood’s Don the Beachcomber restaurant. It was popularized soon afterwards at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Legend has it that Donn Beach originally concocted the Zombie to help a hung-over customer get through a business meeting. He returned several days later to complain that he had been turned into a zombie for his entire trip. Its smooth, fruity taste works to conceal its extremely high alcoholic content. Don the Beachcomber restaurants limit their customers to two Zombies apiece.
The Zombie was originally served heated, as outlined by CIE “Catering Industry Employee” who is more commonly known today as the I.B.A. HOT ZOMBIE “Juice of 1 lime, unsweetened pineapple juice, bitters, 1 ounce heavily bodied rum, 2 ounces of Gold Label rum, 1 ounce of White Label rum, 1 ounce of apricot-flavored brandy, 1 ounce of papaya juice”
According to the original recipe, the Zombie cocktail included three different kinds of rum, lime juice, falernum, Angostura bitters, Pernod, grenadine, and “Don’s Mix,” a combination of cinnamon syrup and grapefruit juice.
Beach was very cautious with the recipes of his original cocktails. His instructions for his bartenders contained coded references to ingredients, the contents of which were only known to him. Beach’s original recipes for the Zombie and other Tiki drink have been published in Sippin’ Safari by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Berry researched the origins of many Tiki cocktails, interviewing bartenders from Don the Beachcomber’s and other original Tiki places and digging up other original sources. Mostly notably, Sippin’ Safari details Beach’s development of the Zombie with three different recipes dating from 1934 to 1956.
Due to the popularity of the cocktail during the Tiki craze and the fact that Beach both kept his recipe secret and occasionally altered it, today there are many variations of the Zombie made at many restaurants and bars, some showing few similarities to the original cocktail.