The Mai Tai may be the drink most closely associated with tiki bars these days, but the Zombie is really where it all started. It was the mixological masterpiece of Don the Beachcomber (Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt), who also pretty much invented the concept of a tiki bar (i.e. a Polynesian-inspired place serving rum concoctions). Made with a blend of rums, citrus, spices, Pernod and bitters, the Zombie was mysterious, complex and potent.
It was so popular that opportunists began creating their own Zombies, some bearing little resemblance to the original article. Don the Beachcomber went to great lengths to keep his recipes a secret, so nobody really knew what went into the original Zombie until decades later when Jeff “Beachbum” Berry embarked to uncover it through exhaustive research and interviews. (His book Sippin’ Safari: In Search of the Great “Lost” Tropical Drink Recipes… and the People Behind Them was one of the main influences that really got me into all things tiki).
Now, David J. Montgomery (aka Professor Cocktail) has added another chapter to this intoxicating narrative with his recently published e-book Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde: Recipes for the World’s Most Lethal Drink. He unearthed and assembled more than 80 recipes for the Zombie, starting with the real deal and its earliest imitators in the 1930s on through the decades. Helpful “Professor’s Notes” accompany many of the recipes and warn readers as to which drinks are duds and which ones are worth recreating at home.
My favorites are the reinvented versions of the Zombie collected from today’s top tiki bars like Smuggler’s Cove, Mahiki and Frankie’s Tiki Room. And it’s not just tiki bars that are represented but also craft cocktail spots around the country, including PDT, Bar Agricole, Caña Rum Bar and Drink. It should also be noted that 10 of these recipes are Zombie Horde exclusives that have never before been published.
Zombie Horde is available as an e-book for $2.99, but there’s a paperback version ($13.46) if you’re old-school. The author has also just released another new e-book for imbibers: Professor Cocktail’s Holiday Drinks: Recipes for Mixed Drinks and More.
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Kahuna Kevin’s Cocktail Book Review
Kahuna Kevin titled his first cocktail book “Why Is the Rum Gone?” but I think my boyfriend would call it “Where Did All This Rum Come From?” Because after taking a look at all these intricate recipes, I went out on a spending spree so that I could recreate some of his crazy concoctions.
Even before I ever tried one of his drinks, I was already impressed by the passion and hard work that were apparent in producing this. The self-published book is beautifully designed, spiral-bound and printed on heavy card stock (the pages are now also coated with plastic to protect against spills), and there’s full color photos of the finished product to accompany each recipe. And how could I not be charmed by fun cocktail names like Irish Nutjob, Mary Ann & Ginger and the Truffle Shuffle? Goonies never say die!
For the last year I’ve been plugging away through Beachbum Berry’s books and filling up our liquor cabinet with a modest store of light, gold and dark rums. However, Kevin specifically calls for various spiced (Kraken, Sailor Jerry, Kilo Kai), premium rums (Zaya, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva), and some exotic liqueurs that I’d previously never even heard of. (I still have no clue how to pronounce D’Aristi Xtabentun…) Most of the ingredients appear in multiple drinks, so it makes it a bit easier to justify springing for them. (Though if somebody wanted to buy me a bottle of Gran Duque D’Alba brandy for my birthday, I’d appreciate it.) DrinkupNY.com was helpful in tracking down some of the more obscure items, like the Rogue Spirits hazelnut rum. They used to offer free U.S. shipping for orders over $100 but now that’s only for certain states.
OK back to the book. No drink has fewer than five ingredients; in fact, most of them have several more (up to sixteen in Kahuna Kevin’s Headless Zombie). With so many different flavors in play, it was sometimes hard to discern what they were all supposed to contribute to the cocktails. I’d say the Five Mile Stare is my favorite so far, along with the Beretta Vendetta. The others have mostly fallen in the middle for me, but my high expectations weren’t quite realised by the Caramel Rebellion or Bac-o-tini. (Truth be told, I find most culinary experiments involving bacon to be disappointing compared to the real deal.) I still have more to try, and I’m hoping to add to the list of keepers.
If you and your liver enjoy a challenge, or you have an encyclopedic selection of booze, this will be right up your alley.
Kahuna Kevin is about to release volume two of “Why is the Rum Gone?” Both books are available to order on his web site: www.kahunakevin.com.