Six Riffs on the Bitter, Tropical Jungle Bird

A decade ago, the Jungle Bird was a rare sighting. Even as its tiki siblings rose to prominence, the ’70s-era combination of blackstrap rum, Campari, pineapple and lime juice remained a relative obscurity.

Today, the bitter-tropical mixture has not only returned from the brink of extinction—helped along by Campari’s rising star—its popularity supersedes that of many of its tiki brethren. In fact, it’s arguably the genre’s biggest crossover hit, as comfortable alongside Zombies and Pearl Divers as it is next to Negronis and Old-Fashioneds. Naturally, in the wake of the drink’s meteoric rise, a requisite flock of new riffs appeared.  

Among these are recipes that retain two of the drink’s central components—rum and Campari—with the addition of modifiers that take the bittersweet profile in unexpected directions. In New York City, Dante’s Jungle Bird, for example, adds a measure of rabarbaro amaro alongside the bar’s signature “fluffy” juice, for a version that rests firmly in aperitiki territory. Or consider Garret Richard’s Yacht Rock, which swaps pineapple for orange juice and adds a hit of crème de cacao for a drink he describes as “a weird orange-chocolate thing.” It became a popular off-menu item at New York’s Slowly Shirley and The Happiest Hour.

Other modified Jungle Birds ditch the Campari altogether. Shannon Mustipher’s Kingston Soundsystem opts for the gentian liqueur Suze, which ticks the bitter box while adding a vegetal, herbal boost to complement the duo of rums in her shaken cocktail. Meaghan Dorman’s Getaway Car, meanwhile, calls on Ancho Reyes chile liqueur to add a spicy kick to the straightforward build. 

The modern flock of Jungle Birds also includes drinks that, at first glance, bear little visual resemblance to the original. The Stirred Bird, for instance, is, as the name implies, stirred and served up in a coupe. But the ingredients are textbook Jungle Bird—rum, Campari, lime and pineapple juices—that have been given the clarified treatment for an entirely different experience of the classic. The Roman Holiday, meanwhile, omits rum altogether, calling instead on Amaro Meletti and cold-brew coffee as the base, complemented by the expected Campari and pineapple and lime juices. As the drink’s creator, Chicago’s Nandini Khaund, explains, “This riff on the Jungle Bird would ideally be drunk in the afternoon on the Italian Riviera, but looking out towards Chicago’s lakefront in the sun feels pretty good, too.”

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