The B-52 is a popular, eye-catching shot composed of three liqueurs: Baileys Irish cream, Grand Marnier and coffee liqueur. The drink’s origin is not completely clear, but rather than being named for the 1950s-built B-52 bomber, it is believed to have originated during the 1970s by a bartender and fan of the iconic band The B-52s.
While some shots are shaken with ice and strained, the B-52 is made by adding each element directly to the shot glass. Since there’s no ice, many bartenders choose to keep the ingredients refrigerated, so they can be served cold.
The shot’s intricate appearance is belied by its very simple construction, in which the ingredients are layered in the glass in order of most dense to lease dense. In this case, the sweet and syrupy coffee liqueur goes on the bottom, followed by the Baileys and then the Grand Marnier, which is the lightest of the three. Pouring the liquids slowly over a bar spoon will help them settle on top of each other to achieve the desired look.
Over the years, bartenders have created many layered B-52-style drinks that riff on the original and either add or replace the primary ingredients. In the B-53, Sambuca replaces the Irish cream, while the B-54 subs amaretto for the orange liqueur. But the most common variation is the Flaming B-52, a risky endeavor in which the top layer of the shot is set on fire. In this case, drinkers will often top the drink with a dash of overproof rum or another high-proof spirit that easily ignites.
Making a round of perfectly layered B-52 shots is a proven method for livening up parties. It’s hard to resist the sweet combination of coffee liqueur, Irish cream and Grand Marnier. The shot looks good, goes down easily and is usually followed by calls for another round.
Watch Now: Classic B-52 Recipe
1/3 ounce coffee liqueur
1/3 ounce Baileys Irish cream liqueur
1/3 ounce Grand Marnier liqueur
Pour the coffee liqueur into a shot glass.
Slowly layer the Baileys on top of the coffee liqueur and the Grand Marnier on top of the Baileys.