A highly popular drink all over the world, the B-52 shot is a pousse-café that can be lit on fire. However, it can only be lit on fire when a triple sec that’s high in alcohol content is used – like Cointreau, or its topped with a overproof alcohol like Bacardi 151. Even then, the flaming effect can still be difficult to achieve.
Serve in a Shot glass
1/3 shot Kahlua coffee Liqueur
1/3 shot Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/3 shot Orange Liqueur
How to Make
Pour the Kahlua in the shot glass.
Layer the Bailey’s on top by gently pouring it over a bar spoon above the Kahlua.
Layer the final layer of Orange liqueur on top.
Light on fire (optional – see notes below).
A drink believed to have originated in the 70’s (or late 60’s), the B-52 shot is a combination of Kahlúa, Irish cream and orange liqueur (originally Grand Marnier Liqueur but now triple sec is most commonly used). It’s quite a showy shot because of its impressive display (it tastes delightful too).
When prepared properly, the ingredients are separated into three distinct layers.
Like most popular mixed drinks, the B-52’s origins are disputed. There are three possible theories that each claim some legitimacy to it.
The first is that the drink was created at Alice’s restaurant in Malibu in the late 1960’s and that it was named after the US B-52 Strato-fortress long-range bomber. This bomber was used in the Vietnam War and dropped ‘fire bombs’, which if you believe this story, likely inspired today’s flaming variant.
The second theory is that it was invented by bartender Peter Fich at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. It’s said that he named his drink creations after his favourite bands, hence the B-52 shot being named after the popular American band with the same name.
The third theory (and least spoken about) is that it was created by bartender Adam Honigman at New York City’s Maxwell’s Plum bar.
Regardless, the drink caught on in the 70’s and has been one of the most popular shooters in the world ever since.
It also had a momentary boost in popularity when Arsenal Football club forward Nicklas Bendtner changed his jersey number from 26 to 52 in the same season he scored a heroic goal against Liverpool at the Carling Cup in 2009. Fans nicknamed him ‘the bomber’ and drank B-52 shots to honor his name.
Flaming B-52 Variant
One of the reasons for the B-52’s continued popularity is because of its flaming variant. This shot is commonly lit on fire by layering a high-proof alcohol (most often Bacardi 151 overproof rum) on top. This variant is sometimes referred to as a “B-52 On a Mission“.
High-proof alcohols are highly flammable which is what makes flaming this shot possible. I’ve also seen this drink flamed when a high-proof triple sec, like cointreau, is used. However, the effect is difficult to achieve and often short-lived. Layering a high-proof alcohol on top is more reliable.
If possible, pour the triple sec (or Grand Marnier) at room temperature. Since it’s layered just before the high-proof alcohol, a colder spirit will make it more difficult to flame.
Once lit, the drink should be consumed as quickly as possible to avoid overheating the glass and liquid. Either drink through a straw or blow out the flame before drinking in one gulp.
Be extremely careful when playing with fire in your bar or at home. Accidents happen, hair & clothing catch on fire, so make sure it’s kept well away from other flammable objects.
The B-50 Shot Family
The B-52 is well known for its variants. Among its flaming brother, there are several other substitutions and names you can experiment with. To help with memorisation, most of these variations call for Kahlua & Baileys and swap the orange liqueur for something different.
They can all also be layered similar to the original.
- B-51 shot: a B-52 with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur instead of orange liqueur
- B-52 with Bombay Doors: a B-52 with Bombay gin layered on as a 4th ingredient
- B-52 in the Desert: a B-52 with tequila instead of Bailey’s Irish cream. To layer this drink, the tequila will need to be poured after the orange liqueur.
- B-52 with a Full Payload: a B-52 with a 4th layer of Frangelico and a 5th layer of Bacardi 151 rum light it on fire.
- B-53: a B-52 with Sambuca instead of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Always us Grand Marnier for this variation to achieve that coloured layered effect. There will be no distinction between triple sec & sambuca because both are clear liquids.
- B-54: a B-52 with Amaretto liqueur instead of Orange Liqueur
- B-55: a B-52 with absinthe instead of Orange Liqueur
- B-57: a B-52 with peppermint schnapps instead of Bailey’s Irish cream
- B-156: a B-52 but three times larger and served in an old-fashioned, rocks glass or pousse-cafe glass.