Someone sets down two identical-looking drinks, but then lights one on fire before sliding it across the bar toward you. Which one do you choose? Even a caveman knows the answer.
Flaming drinks might just seem like a socially acceptable way to play with fire or an easy way to get rid of that bottle of Bacardi 151 in the back of your liquor cabinet—and they are both of those things! But they’re also a fun way to experiment with new drinks and get your guests excited—and isn’t that the point of mixing up cocktails in the first place?
Most flaming drinks are made by floating high-proof liquor over the top of an already-constructed cocktail, then burning it off before serving—so in essence, you can really turn any drink into a flaming drink. To float the higher proof liquor on top, slowly and gently pour it from a very short distance. You may even want to place an inverted spoon directly over the glass, which will disperse the stream as you pour. Then use a long match to set it on fire, but be warned! It will burn fast. So make sure you’re ready to present your drinks before you light them up. Then, blow them out and enjoy.
Still not convinced? Here are seven reasons you should set fire to your drinks, along with cocktail recipes from my recent book with Dylan March, The Book of Dangerous Cocktails: Adventurous Recipes for Serious Drinkers.
[Warning: Use extreme caution while making these drinks, prepare only where there are no flammable materials and a fire extinguisher nearby, and please don’t attempt to make them if you’re already drunk.]
The combination of rum, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup in a daiquiri is flawless, but let’s face it: it’s not particularly exciting. Light it on fire, and you have a much more enthralling drink. Here’s one of the many cocktails you can make by floating overproof rum on top.
1½ ounces white rum
¾ ounce simple syrup
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce overproof rum
Directions: Shake rum, simple syrup, and lime juice with ice until cold and blended. Strain into cocktail glass. Carefully float overproof rum on top and light with long lighter. Let burn off before serving.
One of the most fun things ever to do with a sugar cube, this classic absinthe preparation gave us the absinthe spoon—and possibly the idea of freebasing drugs.
¼ ounce absinthe
½ ounce simple syrup
Directions: Set a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon over a glass. Soak the sugar cube with absinthe and light on fire. Let it burn for a few seconds and douse with simple syrup to put out. Dissolve rest of cube with more absinthe while letting it pour into your mouth.
Purists will call it a Flaming Homer, but either way you decide to go, the original make-up of this infamous concoction is pretty gross. That’s why I recommend adding overproof rum to the top of any drink you’re making (preferably one with a lot of ingredients), light it on fire, and tell everyone it’s the real thing. This version is actually a take on a classic zombie, which is appropriate since fire is one of the few ways you can kill them.
1 ounce white rum
1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 ounce overproof rum
Lime wheel garnish
Directions: Shake all ingredients except overproof rum with ice until cold and blended. Strain into a glass over crushed ice. Float overproof rum on top and light on fire with long lighter. Blow out and garnish with a lime wheel.
Fire’s not just for drinks, it’s also for garnishes. Burning citrus peels before using them in drinks ignites their oils, not only releasing a wonderful aroma into the air, but allowing them to do a better job flavoring your drinks. For winter drinks, try burning a cinnamon stick before adding it as a garnish, or toasting some marshmallows on an alcoholic hot chocolate.
1 ounce gin
½ ounce sweet vermouth
¼ ounce Campari
½ ounce orange liqueur
1½ ounces orange juice
Flaming orange peel garnish
Directions: Shake all ingredients with ice until cold and blended. Strain into cocktail glass. Bend orange peel and squeeze over lit flame until it lights on fire, then blow it out. Garnish drink with burned orange peel.
Did you know that Amaretto and overproof rum lit on fire and slammed into a beer tastes just like a foamy Dr. Pepper? If you don’t believe me, try it. (And if you do believe me, I know you’re already halfway to the fridge.)
Flaming Dr. Pepper
¾ ounce Amaretto
¼ ounce overproof rum
8 ounces pilsner beer
Directions: Pour Amaretto into shot glass and float overproof rum on top. Light on fire and drop into half-full glass of pilsner. Slam it!
Spiked coffee is better than regular coffee, and spiked coffee set on fire is better than just about any other warm drink I can think of. I like this drink in a coffee cup (in front of a fireplace, if available, of course), but if you make it in a regular cocktail glass, it’s customary to rim the glass with sugar and allow it to caramelize slightly before burning out the flame.
4 ounces hot coffee
1½ ounces coffee liqueur
1 ounce blended whiskey
2 dashes overproof rum
Grated nutmeg garnish
Directions: Add coffee, coffee liqueur, and whiskey to a coffee cup and gently stir. Float overproof rum on top. Light on fire, then blow out before serving. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
Perhaps the first flaming cocktail ever invented and still the most dangerous, the Blue Blazer was invented by the father of the cocktail, Jerry Thomas, and is named for the tunnel of blue flame that travels from one mug to another after you light this simple cocktail and start mixing it. I do not recommend wearing gloves made out of asbestos when preparing this drink, as some bartenders originally did after it appeared in Thomas’ original bartenders’ guide. However, I do recommend wearing Ove Gloves or any other Ove Glove-like product you may have bought off the TV, just so you don’t accidentally burn the shit out of your hands. You may also want to do a few trial runs with water, too, before you attempt the Blue Blazer with real, on-fire whiskey.
6 ounces bonded whiskey
½ ounce honey syrup
Lemon peel garnish
Directions: Lay down a sliver platter (as Thomas originally suggested), or just lots of damp towels in case of spills. Roll up your sleeves and dim the lights! (It will help you see the flames better.) When you’re ready, heat the whiskey in microwave in 10-15 second increments until warmed. Get two thick, heavy steel mugs with flared rims that make pouring from one to the other easy. Add honey syrup to one mug and then pour the warmed whiskey on top. Light the whiskey on fire with a long lighter. Then, carefully pour ¾ of the contents of the mug into the empty mug, creating a blue stream. Continue to pour from one mug to the other until the flames subside, then pour into two glasses (preferably crystal goblets) and garnish with lemon peel.
Jennifer Boudinot is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. Her most recent book, with Dylan March, is The Book of Dangerous Cocktails: Adventurous Recipes for Serious Drinkers (St. Martin’s Press).