Are you a pyromaniac with a passion for party tricks? If you are, this cocktail feature is for you! If you’ve ever poured nail polish remover or really cheap vodka into the sand at the beach and lit it on fire, you know that alcohol is a highly flammable substance. It does not take a chemistry course to understand that.
It’s not actually the liquid itself that catches on fire, but rather the ethanol vapors coming off of it, meaning that higher proof alcohols are easier to ignite. Their higher alcohol content leads them to evaporate more rapidly and produce more vapors.
Sometime between the 1600s and the 1860s, bartenders began to use alcohol’s flammability to add a little flare to their drinks. The first official flaming cocktail, the Blue Blazer, was the signature drink of “Professor” Jerry Thomas, who shared it with the world when he wrote and published the first bartending manual in 1862. Since then, many other flaming drinks have been invented, including the Flaming Dr. Pepper, the Backdraft, and the Inferno.
When flaming a drink, please take the utmost precautions to ensure that neither you nor anyone else (or their property) is damaged. Therefore, do this on your first drink, not your fourth. Before involving fire, make sure that all flammable materials, including liquor bottles, have been removed from the area (if you have long hair, tie it back) and that there is water at the ready.
Ideally, have a (sober) friend nearby with a bucket just in case. Use a long-handled lighter. Also, make sure to have a thick glass—a thin one like a champagne flute or a wine glass could crack and spill flaming liquid everywhere. To light the drink itself, float a higher-proof alcohol, like Bacardi 151, atop the standard drink.
The higher-proof alcohol is less dense and will float as long as it is poured in gently—try pouring in over the back of a spoon. It should form a layer at the top of your glass. (Note: alcohol will not light if below 55˚F, so make sure to use a bottle that has been sitting at room temperature). Make sure that no alcohol has been spilled and that none is on your hands, then light the top layer. Wait until the fire has been put out (carefully blow out or snuff it) to drink. Ideally, this trick should work for most mixed drinks. However, I’ve added a few recipes that incorporate fire below.
If you would rather not light the alcohol itself, the peel of fruits like oranges and lemons contain volatile oils that can be used to perform a slightly safer party trick. Squeeze a slice of peel into a drink above a flame (order: peel, flame, glass). The oils will ignite, leading to your own miniature, short-lived fireball. Afterwards, rub the peel on the rim of the glass.
Flaming Dr. Pepper
¾ oz. Amaretto
¼ oz. Bacardi 151 Rum
½ Pint beer (lager)
Pour amaretto into a shot glass and top with 151. Fill a pint glass halfway with beer. Light shot on fire and drop into beer (if this doesn’t extinguish fire, blow it out). Drink.
1/3 oz. Kahlua
1/3 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/3 oz. Tequila (white)
Layer shot with Kahlua on bottom, Bailey’s in the middle, and tequila on top. Light tequila on fire, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Drink through a straw, or blow out and drink.
(Note: this sounds disgusting, but I know someone will want to try it just for the name)
¼ oz. Grenadine
¼ oz. Crème de Menthe
¼ oz. Crème de Banana
¼ oz. Bacardi 151 Rum
Layer in shot glass in the order listed. Light rum and drink through a straw.
Enjoy your own personal pyrotechnics show!!
*DO NOT try this in your dorm room. Also, DO NOT attempt to light a drink on fire while intoxicated. If you do, and bad things happen, neither the Catalyst nor myself (Emily Lucas) accept any responsibility.