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Cocktail in Focus: Zombie

The Zombie (aka Skull-Puncher) is a rum based cocktail made from various fruit,liqueurs and rums. It is claimed to have first been created in the 1930s by Donn Beach at Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood California. Alongside the Mai Tai, the Zombie is one of the most famous tiki-style cocktails.

The history of the creation of the Zombie isn’t 100% certain but the legend most commonly told is that Donn was creating a cocktail to help a hung-over customer get through a business meeting. The customer came back many days later saying the cocktail had turned him into a zombie for the entirety of his trip. Hence the name Zombie was born.

According to BeachBumBerry the recipe for this powerful cocktail is below. As you can see it has an extremely high alcoholic content, however the fruity taste helps to mask this and in Don the Beachcomber restaurant, they limit the cocktail to just two per customer.

“To make one, combine ¾ ounce fresh lime juice, ½ ounce falernum, 1 ½ ounces each gold Puerto Rican rum and gold or dark Jamaican rum, 1 ounce 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara rum, 1 teaspoon grenadine, 6 drops Pernod, a dash of Angostura bitters, and ½ ounce Don’s mix. Put this mix in an electric blender with 6 ounces (¾ cup) crushed ice, then blend at high speeds for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a tall glass. Add ice cubes to fill. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Have a read of the link above to enjoy the wonderful story of the Beachbum quest on trying to track down the original recipe.

Due to the secrecy of the recipe today there are many variations of the Zombie throughout the world in different bars and restaurants. As a result there are a lot of imitations of the original Zombie. I am yet to confirm that I have tried the original Zombie as intended by Donn, but I have definitely had my fair share of Zombies. Why not try to mix it up yourself, or visit your local bar to get a professional to do it for you, just be sure to ask for the original!

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The Most Expensive Rum In The World? – Wray & Nephew’s 1940’s Rum

When I last checked (please let me know if this has changed since) Wray and Nephew owned the most expensive bottle(s) of rum in the world. Whilst there are some very expensive rums which are valued highly due to their design and style, this rum however, is the most expensive due to the quality, age and limited supply (4 bottles) remaining.

As the title suggests, this rum was bottled in 1940, over 75 years ago. It is claimed this bottle contains blends from 1915. But what happened to the supply? To answer that, we need to look into the origination of one of the most famous rum based cocktails, the Mai Tai.

Mai Tai:

There are two contradictory stories about the origination of this cocktail. I’m going to focus on the story at Trader Vic’s. Victor J. Bergeron (Vic) owned his now infamous Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California where he claims he invented the cocktail in 1944.

“In 1944, after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year old Jamaican J. Wray Nephew rum, added fresh lime, some Orange Curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle flavour. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after.
Half the lime shell went in for colour … I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Taihiti, who were there that night.
Carrie took on sip and said, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae”. In Tahitian this means “Out of this World – The Best”. Well, that was that. I named the drink “Mai Tai”.

– Victor J. Bergeron

Once Vic found his ideal blend, he was adamant not to change any part of the recipe including which rum he used. Due to the popularity of those Mai Tai’s, his institution literally came close to drinking the entire supply of that Wray and Nephew rum. To fill demand, Trader Vic’s started using a 15 year old version, but similarly this rum had its supply exhausted in a short space of time.

The last known place to sell this rum publically was the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They would make a Mai Tai with exactly the same ingredients as the original by Vic for an eye watering £750 a glass.

The remaining 1 litre bottles of the original 17 year old rum were only found recently in 2004, when Wray and Nephew took an inventory world-wide. There, they discovered the remains of a barrel with 12 unmarked bottles of this rum. Until then this particular blend was thought to be extinct. By 2007, only 4 known bottles were left and one went on display at RumFest in London.

Wray and Nephew themselves have a long history and began in 1825 in Kingston, Jamaica. J. Wary opened “The Shakespeare Tavern” that year and it grew steadily alongside Kingston itself.  J. Wray brought in his brother’s son in 1860 to run the business side of the company and retired 2 years later leaving it to his nephew Charles James Ward when he died in 1870. They have become one of Jamaica’s biggest rum exporters and are one of the oldest producer’s on the island.

The last price I found for a bottle of this particular rum was $55,000. If you do manage to get your hands on one, RumCask would be happy to swing by for a tasting!

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What Is Your Favourite Rum Based Cocktail?

a)    Daiquiri

b)    Rum Punch

c)    Mojito

d)    Other

What is a Cocktail?

The first definition appeared in Hudson, New York in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository. The editor is quoted as answering:

“Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any
kind, sugar, water and bitters –
it is vulgarly called bittered sling.”

An alcoholic drink which contains a spirit or a mixture of spirits mixed with a variety of other ingredients. The term cocktail has a variety of myths and legends about how it came into existence. Rooster’s tails being used as a garnish, the colour of the first ones resembling a roosters tail, drinks being stirred with a roosters tail (my personal favourite) etc.

Daiquiri

Whatever your choice is on your favourite, it’s clear that rum’s versatility  lends itself to the ability to create a wide variety of world renowned cocktails. The Daiquiri is probably the most famous rum based cocktail in the world. There are a multitude of variations which include a wide spectrum of fruits and extra ingredients, but in my opinion after trying the original last year made by an expert, it can’t be beaten.

The story of the origin of the Daiquiri is said that in Cuba a man called  Jennings Cox was entertaining guests one night. He was an iron miner on the island and was earning a healthy profit. Whilst entertaining those guests, he ran out of the gin he was accustomed to and he went to the nearest shop and purchased the easiest liquor he could find in bulk, rum. He added what ingredients he had at his residence to the rum to try to make it more drinkable as the white rum of the day was harsh and unforgiving. Those were lemon, sugar, water and ice. The drink went down a treat with his guests and they wanted to know what it was called. As he had just made it up, he decided to call it the Daiquiri after the nearby beach.

To make the original Daiquiri bartenders use the rhyme, one of sour (lemon), two of sweet (sugar), three of strong (rum) and four of weak (water). After it was introduced into America, as all good bartenders do, twists and alterations were added to the cocktail to create the variety of Daiquiris that are available globally. Next time you order one, ask for the original if you haven’t tried it, and maybe even recite the rhyme to the bartender as a conversation starter!

Rum Punch

As many people know, punch is a term that is used for a mixture of drinks. Usually these contain fruit juice and/or fruit pieces. There are a number of different rum punches out there. Usually rum punch is quite common amongst the younger drinkers. This is because they can be made with cheaper ingredients and has the ability to mask very high alcohol content. However they also can, and in my opinion should, be treated as a refreshing and tasty cocktail, drunk sparingly to be enjoyed. Rum Punch was created by sailors travelling to the Caribbean. Any beer/wine and other alcoholic drinks they took with them, turned rancid by the time they landed and rather than complain, they decided to become resourceful and use the local ingredients and meld them together with the local spirit to create something drinkable. They added bitters and nutmeg which are also found locally.

One of my favourite is Planter’s Rum Punch. This was invented at the bar of the Planters House Hotel in St Louis Missouri. The recipe for this particular punch differs and usually contains a mixture of rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, lemon juice, grenadine, curacao, soda water, cayenne pepper and Angostura bitters.

Mojito

The Mojito is a world renowned rum cocktail similar to the Daiquiri. However, unlike the Daiquiri, its original recipe still is the most popular and widely used. The five ingredients are white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and mint (bruised not shredded). These are mashed together using a muddler and topped with crushed ice.

The birth of the Mojito is still subject to debate. One version says it was created from local ingredients and used as a treatment for scurvy and dysentery. The sugar and mint were helpful in hading the harshness of the unfiltered rum. The other version says it was created by slaves who worked in Cuban sugar fields.

My favourite of these three purely depends on where I am. I love a rum punch in the Caribbean on a white sandy beach. I love an original Daiquiri in the summer in the city as a cooler. I love the Mojito as a bookend drink on a night out. An excellent start or finish to the night, whatever the hour!

I know there are other rum based cocktails out there. The Mai Tai, Dark and Stormy, Rum Based Old Fashioned etc. Leave a comment on what is your favourite, or your favourite twist on a classic cocktail and next time you’re in a bar, why not ask your bartender where he thinks the term cocktail comes from?