Go wild and craft a Jungle Bird cocktail at home! Despite its surprisingly simple recipe, the sophisticated tiki cocktail is a delight whether you live in an actual jungle or an urban one.
Welcome to the jungle!
We’re not talking about a genuine jungle. We’re talking about the Jungle Bird cocktail, a modern classic tiki drink with vibrant colors and flavors straight out of the tropics.
What Is the Jungle Bird Cocktail?
The Mai Tai may be king of the tiki cocktails, but the Jungle Bird reigns supreme for drinkers seeking a sweet yet sophisticated five-ingredient cocktail. These ingredients include dark rum as well as two fresh juices and simple syrup.
It’s the fifth ingredient, bitter Campari, that transports Jungle Bird drinkers from the beaches of Penang to the streets of Milan. It’s a twist that may seem extreme to traditional tiki drink lovers but there’s no denying that the colorful cocktail is a beverage beauty.
Discover more colorful cocktails.
History of the Jungle Bird Cocktail
The Jungle Bird has roots in Malaysia, a country known for its dense rainforests and tropical climate. However, despite the cocktail’s evocative moniker, the Jungle Bird wasn’t created in the jungle.
Instead, Jeffrey Ong invented the Jungle Bird at the tony Aviary Bar inside the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. As the legend goes, he got his inspiration from the hotel’s onsite aviary filled with actual jungle birds. He proceeded to serve his inspired tiki drink in bird-shaped glasses.
After debuting on the Aviary Bar’s menu in the 1970s, the Jungle Bird hit the international radar when John J. Poister included Ong’s cocktail recipe in his The New American Bartender’s Guide in 1989. Jeff Berry did the same when he published Beachbum Berry’s Intoxica in 2002.
It didn’t take long for the Jungle Bird to become a fixture at bars around the world. It’s at those bars where the drink caught our attention. Prior to crafting the cocktail at home, we previously imbibed a layered Jungle Bird at The Aviary in Chicago as well as a classic Jungle Bird at a Strasbourg speakeasy in France.
Jungle Bird Ingredients
Despite its name, the Jungle Bird’s ingredients aren’t difficult to source. In fact, you should be able to find the following ingredients at your local market and neighborhood liquor store:
A pineapple is the most exotic ingredient in the Jungle Bird recipe and serves three purposes. First, the pineapples juice provides much of the tropical cocktail’s sweet flavor. Second, a pineapple wedge serves as a colorful garnish. And, finally, leaves plucked from the pineapple give the cocktail a distinctive plumage-like flair.
Using a fresh pineapple provides wow factors both in the drink’s appearance and taste. You could hypothetically use canned pineapple and omit the recipe’s decorative pineapple leaves but then you’d be concocting something more suitable for imbibing on an Ikea couch than in a Park Avenue townhouse.
Other than deciding whether to buy a fresh pineapple or not, choosing the rum will be your biggest decision.
The original Jungle Bird recipe simply specified dark rum and Poister’s book did the same. Berry went one step further by specifying dark Jamaican rum in his recipe. Bartenders in NYC later upped the ante with blackstrap rum distilled with molasses.
Having both dark Jamaican rum (Appleton Reserve) and blackstrap Bermudan rum (Goslings Black Seal) in our liquor cabinet, each with a 40% ABV, we opted to use the latter rum in our Jungle Bird recipe. We’d previously bought the blackstrap rum to craft Dark & Stormy cocktails and were curious to see how it would work in the this recipe. With deep rum flavors that counteracted the sweet pineapple juice and bitter Campari, our rum choice was a success.
Discover our favorite rum cocktails.
There’s no decision regarding Campari. The complex liquor’s flavor has no substitute with herbaceous tones from 50+ secret ingredients that include bitter herbs, aromatic plants and fruit. It has an ABV of 25%.
You probably already have a bottle of Campari in your liquor cabinet. It’s a common cocktail ingredient found in the Negroni and other Italian cocktails.
Discover our favorite Campari cocktails.
How to Craft a Jungle Bird Cocktail
The tools required for crafting a Jungle Bird at home are as basic as the tiki cocktail’s ingredient list. We use the following three bar tools in our recipe:
Don’t stress if you’re missing any of these tools. Not only are they all inexpensive, but they can also be replaced with common kitchen tools like a long spoon or an miniature angled measuring cup.
Discover 10 essential bar tools for the home mixologist.
Once you gather the necessary ingredients and tools, the first step is to measure the five liquid ingredients. We use a Japanese Jigger to achieve both accurate measurements and clean pours.
Buy a Japanese Jigger from Amazon if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.
Pour the liquids directly into a shaker as you measure each. We like to use a Boston Shaker which maximizes efficiency while minimizing spillage.
Buy a Boston shaker from Amazon if you don’t have a shaker or if you want to improve your at-home mixology experience.
Add a generous handful of ice to the shaker and shake until the five liquids are combined and chilled. This step should take about 20 seconds.
Place a jumbo ice cube into lowball glass.
Strain the shaken liquids into the lowball glass.
Garnish the cocktail with a pineapple wedge and a few pineapple leaves.
Pause to admire your cocktail creation before you take the first sip. Don’t worry if you forget this step as your first Jungle Bird likely won’t be your last.
Jungle Bird Drink Alternatives
We hope that you’ll go wild for our classic Jungle Bird cocktail recipe. If not, consider the following alternatives:
Jungle Bird Cocktail FAQs
A Jungle Bird cocktail is a tiki cocktail crafted with five ingredients – dark rum, Campari, pineapple juice, lime juice and simple syrup. A pineapple wedge and a few pineapple leaves provide the cocktail’s finishing touches.
The Jungle Bird cocktail was invented in Malaysia at the Aviary Bar located inside the Kuala Lumpur Hilton.
Dark Rum, Campari, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Jumbo Ice Cube, Small Ice Cubes (for shaking), Pineapple Wedge (for garnish) and Pineapple Leaves (for garnish)
The Jungle Bird cocktail is shaken, not stirred.
Jungle Bird Recipe
- 1 1/2 ounces dark rum
- 3/4 ounce Campari
- 1 1/2 ounces fresh pineapple juice
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- jumbo ice cube
- pineapple wedge (for garnish)
- pineapple leaves (for garnish)
- small ice cubes (for shaking)
- Pour dark rum, Campari, pineapple juice, lime juice and simple syrup into a shaker.
- Add a handful of small ice cubes and shake vigorously until liquids are chilled and mixed.
- Drop a jumbo ice cube into a lowball glass.
- Strain the shaken liquids into the lowball glass.
- Garnish with a pineapple wedge and a few pineapple leaves.
- Prepare the simple syrup in advance using a 1:1 ratio of granulated sugar and water.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: May 9, 2023