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Zombie Cocktail: the Classic Recipe

The Zombie cocktail was invented by Donn Beach, of Hollywood’s Don the Beachcomber restaurants, in the late 1930s. This vintage drink is called Zombie because that’s what it can turn its drinker into.

It’s a high-octane cocktail full of delicious fruit juices that make you feel like you’re downing sophisticated candy. But that deliciousness hides quite a lot of liquor.

There are several variations on this cocktail because it’s been around a long time and bartenders have tinkered with it. This version is more or less the original.

But the gist of this drink, in all its variations, is rum, rum and more rum with pineapple and papaya juice. It’s the papaya juice that makes this one fairly unique.

Zombie drink with pineapple and cherry against patterned backdrop

In fact, I believe the Hairy Jerry is the only other cocktail I’ve featured that has papaya juice in it. And if you love the Zombie, you should check it out. Just rum and payapa juice.

If you’ve ever tasted papaya and thought it was horrible, you probably just got an under-ripe fruit. When it’s nicely ripe, it has a sweet, mellow taste that’s sometimes described as a cross between banana and pineapple.

Any bottled papaya juice you get will have that flavor, and it’s very nice. Especially blended with the pineapple juice and all that delicious rum.

Overhead view of Zombie drink with pineapple and cherry with cocktail umbrella


There are, as I mentioned, many variations on this recipe. Some recipes for the Zombie vary the ingredients ratios, but others include ingredients the classic didn’t, such as:

  • Lime juice – makes it nice and tart
  • Orange juice – adds a sweet-tart note
  • Sour mix – tart again
  • Triple Sec – adds a sweet orange flavor
  • Cherry or almond liqueur – adds sweetness and richness
Zombie drink with pineapple and cherry

You’re encouraged to experiment with your Zombie and find precisely what you like. The beauty of this recipe is that you can’t really screw it up.

Do you have some variations of your own for this one? If so, leave them in the comments!

Zombie drink with pineapple and cherry against patterned backdrop
Yield: 1 drink

Zombie Cocktail Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This is the more or less original recipe for the classic Zombie cocktail. So named because you may end up stumbling out of the bar.


  • 1 ounce white rum
  • 1 ounce golden rum
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • 1 ounce apricot brandy
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce papaya juice
  • ½ ounce 151-proof rum
  • Dash of grenadine


  1. Shake all the ingredients except for the 151-proof rum together in a shaker.
  2. Pour the mixture into a glass (this one just calls out for a funky-shaped glass).
  3. Pour the 151-proof rum on the top of the drink.
  4. You can definitely light your Zombie on fire at this point if you want.
  5. Garnish with a cherry, a slice of pineapple, an orange slice, all of the above, or pretty much whatever fruit you feel like.

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