Photos from the Zombie Jamboree at The Mai-Kai

Zombie Jamboree: The Mai-Kai hosts an event to die for

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival kicks off today with a “Zombie Jamboree” at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale from 5 to 7 p.m.

Invented by tropical drink and Tiki bar pioneer Don The Beachcomber in the 1930s, the infamous Zombie cocktail took the world by storm more than 75 years ago. When the great wave of Polynesian Pop faded in the 1970s, so did the Zombie. Its secret original recipe was seemingly lost forever with only a few remaining Tiki palaces, such as The Mai-Kai, carrying on Don The Beachcomber’s legacy.

Beachbum Berry unearthed classic Zombie recipes
Beachbum Berry unearthed classic Zombie recipes

But then along came the Tiki revival of the 1990s and “cocktail archaeologist” Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. He unearthed long-forgotten Zombie recipes in his seminal books Grog Log (1998) and Intoxica (2002), both recently re-released in the revised and updated anthology Beachbum Berry Remixed (2010).

But it was Berry’s fourth book, Sippin’ Safari (2007), that truly blew the lid off the great “lost” tropical drink recipes and the people behind them. An entire chapter explores the Zombie and its history, finally nailing down the true “original recipe.” The book’s final chapter is devoted to The Mai-Kai, one of the last places on earth making drinks directly descended from the Don The Beachcomber classics.

At the Zombie Jamboree, Berry will present his graduate-level thesis seminar on the original creation of – and the further evolution of – the Zombie cocktail, featuring samples of Don’s classic 1934 and 1956 recipes for guests to taste.

The seminar will be followed by the “Zombie Jam,” demonstrations by notable mixologists – including yours truly – with their own variations of the infamous Zombie cocktail. Guests will be asked to vote for the drink they enjoy most with the winner crowned “Zombie Master” of Rum Renaissance 2011.

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