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Zombie Rum Cocktail

How to make a dark rum
Zombie cocktail

Which rum is best for a Zombie Rum Cocktail?

There exists some discussion on this topic but there is a general consensus from bartenders that the rum zombie cocktail has always been a blend of three styles of rum: one lighter, one darker and a third overproof. This building of a rum base serves many classic Tiki/Tropical-Style drinks well. The combination of the Dos Maderas 5+3 with the fuller bodied Selección works especially in tandem as you bring together the smooth richness of the 5+3 and the spicier edge and potency of the Selección. The third rum should be a 151 Demerara Overproof like Hamilton.


About Dos Maderas 5+3 Rum

Dos Maderas 5+3 Rum blends the lighter Baja Rum with the richer Guyana style and ages for 5 years in the Caribbean followed by 3 years in Jerez, Spain in Palo Cortado casks. The smooth character of the 5+3 is awash with pleasant vanilla, hazelnut, coconut and subtle maple.


About Dos Maderas 5+3 Rum

Dos Maderas 5+3 Rum blends the lighter Baja Rum with the richer Guyana style and ages for 5 years in the Caribbean followed by 3 years in Jerez, Spain in Palo Cortado casks. The smooth character of the 5+3 is awash with pleasant vanilla, hazelnut, coconut and subtle maple. 

Ingredients to make a Zombie rum drink using a shaker

  • 1.5 oz. / 4.5 cl Dos Maderas 5+3 Rum
  • 1 oz. / 3 cl Dos Maderas Selección Rum
  • 1 oz. / 3 cl 151-proof Demerara Rum
  • .75 oz. / 2.25 cl fresh lime juice
  • .5 oz. / 1.5 cl fresh grapefruit juice
  • .75 oz. / 2.25 cl Falernum (like John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum)
  • .25 oz. / .75 cl pomegranate based grenadine
  • 2 dashes Absinthe
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Zombie rum cocktail Recipe - Step by step how to prepare a shaken Zombie rum drink

  1. Heat up an ounce of pomegranate juice and add to one ounce of honey. Stir until fully integrated and let cool.
  2. Chill a Collins glass or a tall ceramic tiki mug
  3. Cut your grapefruit in half and juice
  4. Cut a lime in half and juice
  5. Invert the spent lime shell into a cup by pulling the rind up. 
  6. Add all ingredients to your shaker
  7. Fill shaker with cracked ice
  8. Shake for 10 seconds
  9. Double-strain, using a fine mesh strainer to remove excess pulp and ice shards, into your chilled glass
  10. Fill glass with crushed ice
  11. Stir and refresh with more crushed ice
  12. Garnish with your inverted lime cup filled with Overproof Rum
  13. Light on fire.
  14. Freshly grate some cinnamon over your fire for sparks and aroma
  15. Serve with reusable straw. 

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry - History and Origins of the Zombie cocktail

In late 1934, the founder of Tiki, Don the Beachcomber, let loose his most famous recipe, the fiery Zombie, a potent brew of legendary proportions. And by legendary I mean that Don was in the habit of being extremely secretive of his recipes in addition to being apt to continually alter them over the years. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry made research of the original recipe one of his notable projects and wrote extensively about the many versions he uncovered in his line of Tiki cocktail books. We are super thankful for his effort because the Zombie mixed drink has been infamously twisted and riffed into some pretty mean combinations over time. One thing very certain about this epically tasty beast of a drink, is that its ABV was such that Don would set a limit of only two per customer. The story goes that a hung-over patron wandered in the establishment one day looking for something to ease his pain before a business meeting. When said patron returned days later he said the drink had turned him into a Zombie, naming it “the zombie cocktail”. Seems plausible. Due to the inclusion of an overproof rum in the recipe, it was also often served on fire which naturally speaks to the pyro in all of us. Light ‘em if you got ‘em.

Zombie cocktail Variations and types

Bartender Will Peet created this low ABV Zombie alternative by layering the base with three different sherries instead of rums giving the drink a unique extra savory vibe

 This variant created by Bartender / Bar Owner Gina Chersevani subs in a little Campari in replacement of the Grenadine and adds a touch of Prosecco at the finish.

Barman Zac Overman retools the classic subbing in unaged spirits like pisco and gin for the dark rums. In lieu of grenadine, he uses Maraschino Liqueur and also adds some passion fruit puree.

In accordance with the growing preference for more bitter elements in tropical style cocktails, this variation created by Lost Lake barman Paul McGee creates a sessionable variant with Suze, Campari and Jägermeister at its core.


There are several variations of the classic formula with some that include pineapple, passion fruit syrup, Applejack, papaya nectar, etc. There is a pineapple version in particular from the San Francisco Tonga Room in 1945 that included pineapple.

Back in the 1930’s, other bars and bartenders made a point of stealing Don Beach’s ideas to open up their own copycat bars and would often lay claim even coming up with the concepts themselves. It was a dirty business. This led to Don and later Trader Vic developing special secret recipe batches and communicating in codes amongst their bar staff so that very few people knew the exact specs at any given time for a popular order. The Tiki bar culture blew up and was extremely popular leading to theme bars all over the world so it was a bit tricky to track down who made what at certain points.

It is tricky to be 100% sure but a good amount of proper research went into tracking down the original version or versions. Technically, the cocktail contained an ingredient known as Donn’s Mix which was a cinnamon infused syrup mixed with grapefruit juice. For our Zombie recipe here, we add fresh grapefruit and rely more on Falernum for spice and sweetness.

The best glassware is a Collins glass or a tall Tiki ceramic mug.

Don the Beachcomber, aka Don Beach or originally known as Ernest Beaumont-Gantt created the Zombie cocktail in 1934 at his Hollywood bar.

Cocktails with Dos Maderas 5+3

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