Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Gin Cocktails

Baltimore Zoo

A tall Collins glass is filled with a bright red drink and a few ice cubes. It’s garnished with a lemon wheel. The backdrop is pale pink.
Image: Nusog

The Baltimore Zoo is part of a distinct category of drink, and not the kind that would have been published in a cocktail handbook like “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” Instead, the potent, vividly red concoction belongs among august peers like the Long Island Ice Tea and the colorfully named Adios, Motherfucker. It’s the sort of libation that nascent drinkers might order at a bar in stumbling distance to their university housing—in fact, the Baltimore Zoo is said to have been invented during the mid-1990s at Purdue University in Indiana. It’s a believable origin story because the recipe—a cascade of six different spirits and liqueurs topped with, of all things, beer—smacks of collegiate immoderation.

This drink is really only appealing to those looking to get rather inebriated rather quickly while avoiding any pesky flavors of alcohol. Though the amount of sugar in it all but guarantees a nasty hangover the next morning. For starters, there is Amaretto, a syrupy liqueur made from almonds or stone fruit pits. If that wasn’t enough to mask the flavors of the actual alcohol—namely gin, vodka and rum— it also gets peach liqueur, triple sec (skip the Cointreau this time and opt for something cheaper), grenadine and—appropriate for the mid-90s when the cocktail was likely crafted—sweet and sour mix. Nowadays, most bartenders opt for a blend of simple syrup and citrus juice (usually lime) rather than using pre-mixed sweet and sour, but if you’re set on making the Baltimore Zoo, you might as well go “classic.”

One bizarre aspect of the Baltimore Zoo is that, rather than the cola that tops a Long Island or the Sprite or 7UP that finishes an AMF, it gets a glug of beer added on top. There is no specific beer style required, but in the spirit of the drink—an in an attempt to make its flavors vaguely less chaotic—using a cheap, light lager is probably the best move.

Making perhaps even less sense than the beer topping is why the high-octane cocktail is named after a popular Maryland attraction, one that’s more than 600 miles from its origin at Purdue. But one thing is certain: Drink too many Baltimore Zoos and you too could wind up behind bars.


  • 1/2 ounce amaretto

  • 1/2 ounce gin

  • 1/2 ounce peach liqueur

  • 1/2 ounce rum

  • 1/2 ounce triple sec

  • 1/2 ounce vodka

  • 2 ounces sweet-and-sour mix

  • 1/2 ounce grenadine

  • 1 splash beer, to top

  • Garnish: lemon wheel


  1. Add the amaretto, gin, peach liqueur, rum, triple sec, vodka, sweet-and-sour mix and grenadine into a highball glass, add ice and stir to combine.

  2. Top with the beer.

  3. Garnish with a lemon wheel.