Jungle Bird: The Tropical Cocktail with a Twist
Posted by Spirits Kiosk on 7 Apr 2023
In the ever-growing world of cocktails, the Jungle Bird still stands out with its unique blend of flavours and striking presentation. In this 'how to' guide, you’ll learn about its fascinating history and master the art of making this exotic drink yourself.
Along the way, we’ll also unveil the secrets behind this tropical concoction and give you enough tips and tricks (and an easy to make recipe), so that you'll be able to make a great Jungle Bird every time you feel like one!
What do Jungle Birds taste of?
The Jungle Bird is a tantalising blend of sweet fruit, sour zest and bitter citrus flavours – all at once. On paper, it looks like a weird recipe – rum, pineapple and lime all like they are going to work, but through in Campari and it looks odd. Trust us though. It. Just. Works.
The use of dark rum provides a rich and robust base, while Campari adds a bitter orange touch that sets it apart from other tropical cocktails. The pineapple juice imparts a sweet, fruity taste, and the fresh lime juice adds a zesty tang. The simple syrup is used to balance the flavours (and we’d argue it’s optional depending on your choice of rum but more on that later) and when combined, the ingredients blend to create a harmonious mix that’s surprisingly easy to sip.
Who created the Jungle Bird Cocktail?
The Jungle Bird cocktail was created in 1978 by bartender the now late Jeffrey Ong at the Aviary Bar in the Kuala Lumpur Hilton in Malaysia (Ong passed away in February 2019 aged 71, a legend in the industry and something of a national hero).
The bar he worked at was well-known for its bird-themed décor and exotic ambiance, which inspired the creation and the name of cocktail. Originally, it was just designed as a welcome drink for hotel guests, but the Jungle Bird quickly gained popularity and became a favourite among cocktail enthusiasts worldwide.
Over 40 years later, the enduring recipe is a testament to how delicious it is, and to the vision Ong had. It’s a classic cocktail if ever there was one.
Is the Jungle Bird a Tiki cocktail?
Technically, the Jungle Bird Cocktail is not a classic Tiki cocktail in that it was not invented during the original Tiki craze of the mid-20th century.
If you don’t know what Tiki-style cocktails are … They are a type of cocktail that originated in the 1930s and 1940s and were popularised by Polynesian-themed bars and restaurants in the United States. Think tropical flavours, colourful presentation, and the use of exotic ingredients such as rum, coconut, pineapple, and other fruits – often served in crazy drinking vessels.
That said, the Jungle Bird Cocktail is often considered a Tiki-style cocktail because it features rum and tropical ingredients, such as pineapple juice, and has that signature colourful and tropical presentation. Additionally, it was invented in a Polynesian-themed bar, which is a hallmark of Tiki culture.
Why does this detour into definitions matter? The Jungle Bird has become a popular choice among Tiki enthusiasts and is often featured on Tiki-themed cocktail menus. If you are thinking about hosting a retro tiki night – it’s a belter of a drink to make guests and while it’s not completely “authentic” – rest assured that the flavour, the fun and the intention behind why the drink was invented all fit the bill perfectly.
If you don’t agree, next time you see us in a bar - challenge us to a game of barstool fencing using a Hawaiian swizzle stick over the pina colada (also not technically a tiki creation) and the victor gets to decide!
Jungle Bird Recipe
50ml fresh pineapple juice
15ml fresh lime juice
15ml simple syrup
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
Add the dark rum, Campari, pineapple juice, lime juice, and simple syrup.
Shake well until thoroughly chilled and combined, around 15-20 seconds.
Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice.
Garnish with a pineapple wedge and / or cherry.
Tips for Making the Perfect Jungle Bird:
Use fresh ingredients: Opt for fresh pineapple juice and fresh lime juice whenever possible. It makes a significant difference in the taste and quality of your cocktail compared to using concentrates.
Choose a quality dark rum: The dark rum is the backbone of this cocktail, so selecting a great all rounder will enhance the overall flavour.
Balance the flavours: Adjust the simple syrup and lime juice to your taste preferences. If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, add more simple syrup; for a tangier twist, increase the lime juice.
While not a usual suspect in tiki drinks, Campari lends itself well to the mix here and makes the overall cocktail feel more bracing. If it’s OTT for you though, sub it out with Select (which is sweeter) or Pampelle, which leans towards grapefruit more than orange.
Try these brands
Two Drifters Signature:Treacle and candied orange meets baked banana and full bodied flavours make Two Drifters a great choice for a Jungle Bird. It stands up to the other big flavours, adds generous flavours of its own - a great all rounder.
Montanya Exclusiva: Cinnamon, red wine, honey and vanilla are all over this rum but it's the dry tannic finish that defines it and what we like to play off in this cocktail. If you don't want to veer off into the sweeter side, this will keep the profile firmly leaning the other way.
Duppy Share: Duppy Share is a blend of an old 100% pot still Jamaican rum, packed full of tropical fruit flavours up front is followed by a smooth 5-year old Barbadian rum giving a warm buttery finish. Tailor made for a drink like this.