I’ve been looking over my past columns, trying to organize them for future reference, and, oh golly, do the years fly! In doing so, I realized I’ve never done a proper “spookily named drink” piece before, even though I could’ve sworn I had.

Why now? I figure a lot of people are going to be gathering at home this year for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos … just a hunch. Also, I got an invitation from the erudite esotericist “Reverend Erik” Arneson to do a live stream for his Arnemancy podcast. He asked me to come up with a short list of appropriate cocktails, and although I have written about two of them in the past, I figured this column would be a great place for everyone to get ready to follow along at home, or to plan their own hijinks. So, finally, here’s your Halloween/Dia de Los Muertos drinks column, paced through the course of a day—with a horror-movie pairing to boot!

Let’s start with the (hopefully late) morning. I wrote about the “Corpse Reviver No. 1” last month, and as fine of an addition as it would make to your macabre masquerade, let’s start with the very brunchable “Corpse Reviver No. 2” from The Savoy Cocktail Book instead. Keep in mind that the inventor, Harry Craddock, states that “four of these in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again!” The Kina Lillet in the recipe would have been more bitter than Lillet Blanc that most people now use, so you can use Kina L’Aero d’Or or Cocchi Americano for a more classic flavor. I like a curaçao such as Pierre Ferrand or Grand Marnier instead of the triple sec for an evening variation.

  • 1 ounce of dry gin
  • 1 ounce of triple sec (Craddock used Cointreau)
  • 1 ounce of Kina Lillet (see above)
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice

Shake; strain into a cocktail glass that has been lightly rinsed or spritzed with absinthe. No garnish, but if you make as a pitcher or punch bowl, add some lemon wheels.

As for my movie recommendation: Put on something campy like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge or Sleepaway Camp.

For the afternoon, it would be hard to beat the “El Diablo.” It’s a tequila Tiki classic, first in print in 1946 in Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink. It’s also an easy recipe, but you can gussy her up by substituting mezcal, infusing the tequila with hot chiles, and/or using ginger beer instead of ginger ale.

  • 1 ounce tequila
  • 1/2 ounce of creme de cassis
  • Juice of half a lime

Collins glass, ice; top with ginger ale and the spent lime shell.

Here is a more-modern, craft take on the “El Diablo”:

  • 2 ounces of tequila
  • 1/2 ounce of creme de cassis
  • 3/4 of an ounce of fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon of simple syrup

Shake with ice; dump into a Collins glass; top with ginger beer, and a cherry and lime flag.

This one calls for a movie with a cool, macho lead. It goes well with Evil Dead II or John Carpenter’s The Thing, but you could also go with The Exorcist and risk being a little “on the nose.”

All right, let’s end the night with a “bang”—a classic no-more-than-two-per-guest drink, the “Zombie.” If any of your guests are still standing, this one will take care of that in short order. It’s a Donn Beach drink, from the middle of the 20th century, and the actual specifications are lost to history. A lot of bars use the Jeff “Beach Bum” Berry interpretation:

  • 1 ounce of overproof rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces of Jamaican rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces of “gold” Puerto Rican rum
  • 3/4 of an ounce of fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce of falernum
  • 1/2 ounce of “Donn’s Mix”
  • 1 teaspoon of grenadine
  • 1/4 teaspoon of absinthe
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters

Blend, or get some crushed ice and shake; pour into a Collins glass or another tall, skinny vessel; garnish with “slapped” mint, and a cherry and orange flag.

Yeah, that’s a lot, I know. There is a reason it’s called the “Zombie.” For the Jamaican rum, you could use something like Appleton, or Wray and Nephew for more alcohol per ounce (you maniac!), but I would go with blackstrap rum for a caramel-y flavor and dark color. The gold Puerto Rican rum could be Bacardi Gold, but there are better options out there; use the Appleton here, or a Central American rum. For the over-proof rum; Lemon Hart is great if you can find it, and O.F.T.D. from Plantation is good, too.

The tricky part, besides walking after two of these, is the Donn’s Mix. It’s lost to history, but most tiki bartenders I know use something like this: Take three cinnamon sticks, a cup of sugar and a cup of water; boil into a syrup and turn off the heat; use one part of this syrup to two parts fresh grapefruit juice.

As for the falernum, you can make your own, or use something spice-forward like Bitter Truth or another craft-spirit company’s offering. Here’s a falernum recipe, cobbled together from several I have seen over the years:

  • 250 milliliters of Wray and Nephew rum
  • A few dozen whole cloves
  • Zest of a dozen small limes, or 8 large
  • A small “hand” of ginger
  • 1/4 to 1/2 of a whole nutmeg, grated

Peel the ginger (use a spoon!), and chop into a small dice; add the rest of the ingredients. Let this infuse for at least 24 hours, then add 500 milliliters of 2-to-1 (sugar to water) simple syrup; let rest overnight, if possible. Tweak to your liking.

As for the movie … who cares at this point? Road House? Mean Girls? If you’re still in the horror spirit, The Return of the Living Dead or Re-Animator will definitely get people’s attention!

I hope you can join Erik and me online, on Friday, Oct. 29! We’ll be making cocktails and talking about cocktail history, as well as cool occult stuff like tarot and magic! Check out @CrypticCocktails and @Arnemancy on social media for details.

Just don’t blame me for what happens after you consume the Zombies. Even if the limit-two-per-customer was primarily a clever marketing gimmick, it’s also good advice!

Kevin Carlow

Kevin Carlow has been a bartender and writer for most of his adult life. Having worked in nearly every position in the service industry at some point, he is currently a cocktail consultant, oyster shucker...

2 replies on “On Cocktails: These Three Spookily Named Drinks All Have Storied Histories—and Are Delicious, Too!”

  1. “These 3 cocktail recipes for the coming holiday season, mezcal is a new add-on to the cocktail mix with tequila.
    It tasted very fruity & earthy, and I loved the taste.

    Thank you for the amazingly tasty cocktail recipes.”

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