Flaming B-52 Drink Recipe

How to Set Drinks on Fire Safely

You can set just about any drink aflame by igniting a thin layer of high-proof alcohol, like 151-rum.
You can set just about any drink aflame by igniting a thin layer of high-proof alcohol, like 151-rum. Konstantin Papadakis / Getty Images

It's easy to make flaming cocktails. Essentially, you take a drink recipe and then add and ignite a float of any high-proof alcohol. Most commonly this is 151 rum, but any alcoholic beverage 150-proof or higher will work. Many flaming drinks today are flaming shots, but you can set most drinks on fire. Here's what you do.

Basic Flaming Drink Directions

  • Prepare your drink.
  • Warm a little liquor in a spoon. Hold your hand steady so that the flammable vapor can collect right over the liquid.
  • Ignite the alcohol in the spoon and pour it onto your drink.
  • Dim the lights to enjoy the show, then blow out the flame before taking a drink. Be careful! The glass and drink may be hot. Also, pure alcohol burns with an almost-invisible blue flame. Adding a rim of sugar or salt to the glass will help make the flame more visible.

Flaming B-52 Recipe

If you're ready for something a little more advanced, try my personal favorite, a flaming B-52. This is a layered drink. If you make it correctly, you will have a tricolored drink topped by a flame.

B-52 Cocktail Ingredients

  • Kahlua
  • Irish Cream
  • Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • Shot glass
  • Spoon or a maraschino cherry
  • Match or lighter
  • 151 rum or Everclear
  1. Fill the shot glass about a third full with Kahlua.
  2. You form layers with the lighter alcohols by slowly pouring them over the back of a spoon (or a cherry), touching the side of the glass just above the liquid. Use this technique to slowly add a layer of Irish Cream over the Kahlua.
  1. Add a layer of Grand Marnier on top of the Irish Cream.
  2. Pour a couple of drops of 151 on top of the Grand Marnier and light the drink on fire.
  3. If you use warmed Grand Marnier, you don't even need the 151.
  4. You can drink the lit drink using a long straw, from the bottom of the drink. It's more prudent to blow out the flame before drinking the B-52.

    Here's a nice YouTube video you might want to watch if you want to see how to form the layers. Once you learn how to layer drinks, you can try this technique with other liqueurs (or sugar water, if you want something non-alcoholic with even more layers). Combinations to try (heaviest to lightest) include Tia Maria, Irish Cream, Absinthe or Amaretto, Irish Cream, and rum.

    It's a Flaming Density Column

    While the purpose of a flaming cocktail is entertainment, the layered drink is a good example of a density column. The different layers have different densities, so if they are poured carefully, they will remain separate.

    The project also illustrates the flammability of ethanol (the kind of alcohol you can drink). If the cocktail is prepared poorly, it shows the miscibility of alcohol and water. When alcohol and water mix, the flammability of the alcohol is offset by the presence of the water.

    Flaming Drink Safety

    Fire is fun and all, but you need to be safe.

    • Don't mix or drink flaming drinks if you're intoxicated.
    • You really ought to blow out the fire before drinking the drink. In my opinion, it's not worth burning yourself.
    • Don't add spirits to a flaming drink.
    • Use heavy glassware to minimize the chance of the glass cracking.
    • Short or rounded glasses tend to work better than tall, narrow glasses.
    • Don't prepare or serve flaming drinks near open bottles of liquor.
    • Coating the rim of the glass with salt (not recommended for the B-52, for flavor) can add yellow to the flame from the sodium. This can make the flame easier to see, reducing the chance of a burn.

    Key Points

    • The key to preparing a flaming cocktail is to ignite a high-proof alcohol and float it on top of the drink.
    • Alcohol is less dense than the other ingredients, so it sits on top of the drink. However, it will mix with the next layer over time, so the final float should be added just before lighting it.
    • Alcohol burns with a nearly invisible flame, so it's important to make certain the flame is extinguished before skin contact.
    • Prepare a flaming B-52 by layering (bottom of the glass to top) Kahlua or other coffee liqueur, Irish Cream, and Grand Marnier or Cointreau, topped with a bit of 151 rum or Everclear.