As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, refreshing cocktails are transfigured into warming serves that complement the season. In some cases, that means cocktails that are literally set aflame. Whether the technique is applied purely for aesthetic purposes or to add a subtle warmth or caramelized flavors to a cocktail, the spectacle of a flamed drink is one that captures the attention of anyone within sight.
Playing with fire should always be approached with caution, but with a bit of focus and preparation, a flaming cocktail might just be the newest trick up your sleeve if you’re a home bartender or it might spark a few new ideas for seasoned pros. If you’re looking for a bright new twist to your winter drinking, these are five flaming cocktails to try.
The Holy Water is the flagship cocktail at Seaworthy in the Ace Hotel in New Orleans. Created by beverage consultant Lauren Schell, the drink is a shaken mix of Jamaican rum infused with golden raisins, orange peels, vanilla bean, and warm baking spices; cognac, citrus juices, and a layered float of Angostura bitters on top. In true Tiki style, a halved, juiced lime shell atop the cocktail is filled with green Chartreuse and a sugar cube before being lit tableside. The sugars caramelize, releasing aromas of citrus, herbs, and spice. Crushed ice is key for ensuring the drink is properly diluted—an admittedly laborious task for the home bartender—but the cocktail is an absolute crusher and is well-worth the effort. (Pro tip: From a few inches above the glass while the garnish is flaming, sprinkle a few dashes of cinnamon for some pyrotechnics. It’s a showstopper.)
Flaming Dr. Pepper
If you never had a Flaming Dr. Pepper during your early 20s, it’s time to give this indulgent boilermaker a whirl. To make it, you simply add amaretto into a shot glass, top it with overproof rum, and light the liquid on fire. On the side, of course, is a half pint of beer. To consume it, carefully drop the shot into the beer to extinguish the flame, and drink up. You probably can imagine the pace at which this concoction is typically consumed (which is to say, as quickly as possible).
Storm the Beach
Storm the Beach hails from The Cocktail Club in Charleston, South Carolina, where bar manager Ryan Welliver puts his own subtle twist on the tiki classic the Jet Pilot, by combining two types of rum with two types of citrus, falernum, a cinnamon-cumin syrup, and Tiki bitters for a complex and spice-driven tropical serve. The cocktail is topped with a flaming lime-shell garnish. Just pour some overproof rum into the spent lime shell and light it with a torch or match. Again, for dramatic effect, sprinkle some cinnamon over the flaming garnish to create eye-catching sparks. It’s both delicious and entertaining.
Set the New Year on Fire
This drink is a bit like a whiskey-based Mojito with Campari, sans soda water (That might be a slight stretch, but you’ll see what we mean). To start, fresh mint leaves are gently muddled with simple syrup at the bottom of a Collins glass. Then, scotch whisky and freshly squeezed lime juice are added to the glass before it’s all topped with crushed ice. The Campari is layered on top for visual appeal, but adding it with the rest of the mix probably isn’t a bad shout. The cocktail is garnished with a flaming lime shell that’s filled with 151-proof rum then lit on fire.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
This classic is the pinnacle of flaming cocktails. Its origins can be traced back to a gambling saloon in Gold Rush-era San Francisco, where cocktail pioneer Jerry Thomas conjured the concept. In his 1862 Bartenders Guide, Thomas describes the drink as a “blazing stream of liquid fire,” which is as apt a description as any. The drink’s base spirit can vary, but it must be high-proof (enough so to be lit on fire). Classically, it’s made with cask-strength scotch whisky, boiling water, sugar, and lemon peels—essentially a Hot Toddy, except this one is augmented by flames. The tricky part is mixing the cocktail, which requires impeccable technique. You’ll need two mixing tins, or mugs, with handles. In one of the tins, add the scotch, sugar, and boiling water, then carefully ignite the mix with a match. From there, the flaming liquid will be “thrown” back and forth in order to caramelize the sugars and create a seamless, rounded cocktail. This technique is not for the faint of heart, so be sure to follow the mixing instructions carefully. Most importantly, don’t light anything else on fire!