Tiki godfather Donn Beach opened his original Don the Beachcomber bar and restaurant in Hollywood in 1933, just as the American social scene was having a renaissance on the heels of Prohibition’s repeal. It was at this Hollywood institution that Beach created some of his most iconic cocktails, including, in 1934, the Zombie. Calling for Jamaican, Puerto Rican and 151-proof rums along with fresh lime juice, falernum, grenadine, anise liqueur and Donn’s mix (one part cinnamon syrup and two parts fresh grapefruit juice), the legendary Zombie serves as the inspiration for Smuggler’s Cove owner Martin Cate’s modern variation, the Undead Gentleman. Between the Zombie’s inception and today, though, there are two other branches to this cocktail family tree that are worth exploring.
During his reign, Beach was also responsible for the creation of the Test Pilot, a blended drink made with fresh lime juice, Falernum (a lime-tinged spiced almond liqueur, in simple terms), dark Jamaican rum, light Puerto Rican rum, Cointreau, Angostura bitters and Pernod. Around 1958, several competitors began offering their own riff, the Jet Pilot, which brought grapefruit, cinnamon syrup and overproof rum into the mix. This all comes back to the Zombie—and thus the Undead Gentleman—in that the Zombie’s spirit base is a cross between that of the Test Pilot and Jet Pilot, and all four of these cocktails revolve around a similar combination of flavors, give or take.
The Undead Gentleman is a shaken cocktail in contrast to the original Zombie, Test Pilot and Jet Pilot, which were served flash-blended, and though this contemporary cousin might seem overwhelming in its somewhat long list of ingredients, the nuanced flavor profile of complex rums, fresh grapefruit juice, bright fresh lime, baking spices, almond and Angostura are worth every ounce of effort. And while it’s sometimes described as a simplified Zombie, we’d actually argue that this drink is closer in DNA to the Jet Pilot, if anything—perhaps we’re splitting hairs, but if you don’t know your history, can you really call yourself a Tiki nerd? Consider this your food for thought as you make and sip Cate’s modern wonder, all dressed up in a nice, chilled coupe.
- Absinthe blanc, to rinse
- 1 1/2 ounces blended aged rum (such as Appleton Estate Reserve or The Real McCoy five-year-old)
- 1 ounce black blended overproof rum (such as Hamilton 151)
- 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice (white or pink), freshly squeezed
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 ounce John D. Taylor’s Velvet falernum
- 1/2 ounce SC cinnamon syrup*
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Garnish: lime twist
- Garnish: grapefruit twist
Rinse a chilled cocktail coupe with absinthe blanc.
Add the rums, juices, falernum, cinnamon syrup and bitters into a shaker with cracked or cubed ice and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into the prepared glass.
Garnish with intertwined lime and grapefruit twists.
*SC cinnamon syrup: Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add 3 halved 6-inch pieces of cinnamon stick to the water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 4 cups of granulated sugar and stir with a whisk (or an immersion blender) until dissolved, about 1 minute. The liquid should become clear such that you can see the bottom of the pot. Immediately remove from the heat. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours. Strain through cheesecloth into a bowl, and then use a funnel to pour into a lidded bottle or other sealable container. The syrup will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks. Makes 4 cups (32 ounces).