It’s the perfect summer cocktail, a fruity but complex tipple that pairs the tropical flavors of Malaysia with the bitterness of that classic Italian staple, Campari. It is, of course, the Jungle Bird cocktail, a deeply enticing tipple that delivers everything you could possibly want from a cocktail in one, exquisite glass. It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit tart, and a little bit bitter – basically, it’s a perfectly balanced, perfectly harmonious drink that every cocktail fanatic should be hitting up as often as decency allows. If you haven’t already tried it, this is the time to change things. Here’s everything you need to know about the drink, its history, and where it got that unusual name from.
What Is a Jungle Bird Cocktail?
The Jungle Bird cocktail is a tropical cocktail made from dark rum, pineapple juice, Campari, lime juice, and simple syrup. As acouplecooks.com notes, it was invented in the 1970s at the Aviary bar of the Kuala Lumpur Hilton, and quickly gained a fast following thanks to its exotic fusion of bitter Italian Campari and tropical flavors. Its popularity has risen and dipped over the years, but thanks to the recent Negroni craze that’s turned the entire cocktail world onto Campari, its standing has never been higher. Part of its popularity lies in its unusual combination of ingredients. As The Spruce says, while rum, pineapple, and lime are all staple ingredients in a tropical cocktail, the same can’t be said for Campari, a bitter aperitif usually reserved for dry dinner cocktails like the Negroni, rather than the kind of sun-kissed cocktails you’d happily sip by the pool. But while the inclusion of Campari in the Jungle Bird might be unusual, it’s also inspired, lending an undercurrent of bitterness that balances out the sweetness of the simple syrup and rum and adds some bracing complexity to the tart fruitiness of the lime and pineapple. While its combination of ingredients is crucial, a Jungle Bird would be nothing without its garnish of a pineapple wedge, pineapple leaves, and a cherry. Traditionally, the garnish should be fanned out and placed on top of the glass to resemble the tail of a bird. A fun, festive cocktail with enough of a difference to make a great talking point, it makes a great addition to any party, gathering, or solo drinking adventure you care to mention.
The Origins of the Jungle Bird’s Name
As themanual.com explains, it’s widely thought that the Jungle Bird was created in 1978 in the former KL Hilton’s Aviary Bar in Malaysia. However, other sources suggest that it was more likely to have been developed by beverage manager Jeffrey Ong in 1973 at the same time as the hotel opened. The cocktail was named after the Aviary Bar’s collection of colorful exotic birds, which were kept in a netted aviary by the swimming pool just outside the bar. As the bar and the pool were separated by just a panel of glass, guests could sit and watch the birds as they sipped on their namesake cocktail. The cocktail was typically served to guests as a welcome drink, with each presented in an elegant, brown and green porcelain stemmed wine goblet with an engraved bird on the side. It stayed a regular part of the bar’s menu right up until the hotel’s closure in 2013. The first written record of the recipe was published in 1989 in John J. Poister’s “The New American Bartender’s Guide.” It didn’t make much of an impact at the time, but in 2002, Tiki cocktail expert Jeff “Beachbum” Berry unearthed it while he was researching his book, “Intoxica”. “Intoxica” made a wave on the cocktail scene and so did the Jungle Bird. Today, it’s a staple on Tiki bar menus and cocktail bar menus across the world.
How to Make a Jungle Bird Cocktail
If you want to try this fruity delight for yourself, here’s how to do it.
Gather your ingredients. You’re going to need:
- 3/4 ounce Campari
- 1 1/2 ounces dark rum
- 1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
- 1/2 ounce lime juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
- Maraschino cherry, pineapple and leaves for the garnish
Add the rum, simple syrup, Campari, and pineapple and lime juices to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
Add a large ice cube to a glass (an old-fashioned glass preferably, but any will do at a pinch).
Make the garnish by cutting a piece of pineapple measuring around 1 inch thick. Cut the pineapple into triangles. Take a couple of leaves from the pineapple and stack them in order of size, with the shortest on top. Pin a maraschino cherry on a cocktail skewer through the leaves and pineapple wedge. Arrange the leaves to look like the feathers on a bird’s tail and place the garnish inside the glass. Serve.
Make It Your Own
If you like sticking to tradition, the above recipe will give you an exact replica of the Jungle Bird cocktail’s quaffed at the Aviary Bar in the ’70s. If you’d rather get a little more creative, the recipe is open to interpretation, at least to a degree. When it comes to the choice of rum, the original recipe simply calls for dark rum. When Berry updated it for Intoxica, he stipulated the use of Jamaican rum, which adds a tasty boldness. Others prefer to use blackstrap rums like Cruzan for added richness. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but unless you want to mess with tradition more than’s recommended, stick to a dark rum over a white rum. You can also try scaling the quantity of pineapple juice up or down, depending on whether you prefer something short and complex, or tall and refreshing. A bitter liqueur is absolutely essential, but for something a little different, you could try a coffee-infused Campari or another type of bitter liquor like Averna. Another twist involves substituting the lime juice for lemon juice.