Tiki godfather Donn Beach opened his original Don the Beachcomber bar and restaurant in Hollywood in 1933, just as the American social scene was in the throes of its renaissance on the heels of Prohibition’s repeal. It was at this institution that Beach created some of his most iconic cocktails, including the Zombie in 1934, which brings us to the contemporary riff at hand: Martin Cate’s Undead Gentleman.
A lot of things transpired in the cocktail world between the 1930s and now, of course, and the classics made way for countless offshoots along the way (though some origin stories are certainly muddier than others). What we do know, though, is that the Undead Gentleman and the Zombie are inextricably intertwined, along with Beach’s later recipe for a drink he dubbed the Test Pilot and its 1958 riff, the Jet Pilot, by Steve Crane at his own Hollywood joint, the Luau. Beach’s blended Test Pilot, which was named for the golden age of aviation that carried into World War II, called for 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 while Crane’s interpretation brings grapefruit, cinnamon syrup and overproof rum into the mix. Despite having come before both of these cocktails, the Zombie’s spirit base is essentially a cross between both the Test Pilot and the Jet Pilot, though this recipe includes Donn’s Mix in addition to the Falernum as well as a teaspoon of grenadine.
Now, the Undead Gentleman by Martin Cate of contemporary favorite Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, is often described as a simplified Zombie, though we’d 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, 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 remaining ingredients 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 for 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).