Rhum Rhapsodies Report with Marie King: The Zombie


The Zombie is possibly Don the Beachcomber’s most famous — and powerful — drink, and supposedly created to rescue a businessman from a hangover, according to the 1948 story. “The suffering customer confided to Don that he was experiencing the worst hangover anyone had had since Rip Van Winkle woke up. To make matters worse, he had an important business conference that evening. Don poured one ounce of each of six different kinds of rum into a tall tubular glass and added other ingredients. The customer tossed it off and departed. The next time he saw him, Donn asked how it had worked. “It made a Zombie of me,” the customer told him. “I felt like the living dead.”

Monty Proser was the first to imitate the DtB concept on the East Coast when in 1939 he opened his “Monty Proser Beachcomber” in New York City, claiming HE invented the Zombie.  He even had the gaul to tell people to say “Hi!” to Donn and Sunny when they visited HIS Beachcomber in LA!

The thing that set Donn’s mixology apart was his use of encryption and coded recipes.  Neither his rivals nor his expert bartenders could decipher these codes.  The secrets behind “Don’s Mix” or “Spices #2” or “MUNRELAF” (that’s falernum spelled backward!) not only added to the popularity of the Don the Beachcomber drinks (no one else could make them quite right) but also almost drove them to extinction.

We owe the rediscovery of our trade-in “tiki” drinks wholly to one man, Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry, and his lifelong search for the perfect Zombie.  It took The Bum 12 years to finally track down the secret behind “Don’s Mix” which was called for in an “old Zombie” recipe from a Filipino barman’s notebook, circa 1937.  From there Berry set upon writing his first of several narratives on the evolution of the tropical cocktail and how those drinks proliferated the spread of Poly-Pop across the country.

Let me say this again, in case you didn’t hear it the first time:

We owe the lexicon of tropical cocktail mixology to one man JEFF ‘BEACHBUM’ BERRY! He researched it, resurrected it, and resuscitated it.

I’ve personally promised The Bum to do him proud by serving every one of you who visit one of our new Don the Beachcomber restaurants a proper Zombie a la Donn Beach.  Cheers to the “living dead!”