Oaxacan Dead – How to Make the Mezcal Tiki Drink Inspired by The Walking Dead

Here’s how to make the Oaxacan Dead 1.0, a modern Tiki cocktail inspired by The Walking Dead made with a smoky Mezcal, Apricot Liqueur, Lime Juice, Falernum, Peychaud’s Bitters, Orange Bitters and a Mint Sprig for garnish. This is the original version of this drink that was created back in 2013.

This drink was concocted by Ethan Armstrong, a bartender at Deep Ellum in Boston. There is a drink on Deep Ellum’s menu named the Oaxacan Dead, but this ain’t it. This is the 1.0 version of the recipe. Armstrong came up with the name and built the drink around that. He was joking around with a friend who loved The Walking Dead and suggested that there should be a drink called the Oaxacan Dead. Oaxaca (pronounced “Wuh-ha-kuh”) is a state in Mexico known for producing Mezcal. And while this clever pun was rattling around in Armstrong’s head, it dawned on him that the drink should be a sort of mezcal Zombie.

The Zombie was created in 1934 and spent 20 years being the most famous Tiki drink, but virtually no one knew what was in it. That’s because the drink’s creator, Donn Beach, was extremely secretive about it. So this meant that all of his Tiki bar competitors, as well as anyone else who wanted to serve it, had to make up their own version. This led to 100’s of versions of the recipe.

The one that Armstrong drew upon for this drink was the 1941 recipe from W.C. Whitfield’s book, Here’s How, which used apricot liqueur. The recipe blossomed from there. While it was still in the R&D phase, Armstrong showed it to Fredrick Yarm, a friend and fellow Bostonian bartender behind the blog, Cocktail Virgin ( Yarm liked it and did a write up on it in his blog. However, that was about as far as the drink got.

After some unforeseen complications with among other things, a pebble ice machine, the tiki menu Deep Ellum was planning—for which Armstrong was developing the drink—got scrapped and the drink was all but forgotten. But the next spring, they wanted to try the tiki menu again and one of Armstrong’s co-workers remembered the drink and suggested they add it to the menu. The name was too good not to use, but the drink was overhauled into something that was vastly different. The new, 2.0 recipe was made more in the image of the 1934, Don the Beachcomber Zombie. It’s a really good drink, and can be approximated at home, but the real deal version is made in 1.5 gallon batches, which doesn’t lend itself to the home bartender.

Shortly after Armstrong started developing the 2.0 recipe, the name of this drink started appearing on menus, particularly on the west coast. The recipes all seem to be the same concept of mezcal being integrated in a various versions of the Zombie. But unlike the Zombie’s outcropping of recipes in the 1940’s and 1950’s, this drink wasn’t nearly as famous. The zeitgeist works in mysterious way, I guess.

All of the various Oaxacan Deads are probably pretty tasty, but I still like the OG version, particularly when making it at home. The measurements are easy. There aren’t many bottles (for a tiki drink). The ingredients aren’t too esoteric (again, for tiki drinks). And, most importantly, it’s damn good.

Also, because it’s a tiki drink, I love serving it in a horror-themed tiki mug. It may not feel like keeping kosher by using a Cthulhu mug for a Walking Dead drink, but the swizzle stick helps complete the look as besides, Tiki is all about crossbreeding cultures and embracing the melting pot. Okole Maluna!

1.5 oz (45 ml) (smoky) Mezcal
0.5 oz (15 ml) Apricot Liqueur
0.5 oz (15 ml) Falernum
0.5 oz (15 ml) Lime Juice
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
2 dashes Orange Bitters
garnish Mint Sprig

Shake with ice. Whack mint on the rim of the Mug/Glass then fill with crushed ice. Strain into Mug/Glass. Garnish with Mint Sprig.

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