As the weather gets hotter, so do the drink garnishes. Whether used for pure dramatic flair or to add a whisper of smoky flavor, fire has gone hand-in-hand with booze for nearly two centuries. This summer, head to a bar near you to try one of these 11 new flaming cocktails, which range from tropical refreshers at classic Tiki joints to spirit-forward sippers at new-school gastropubs.
(image: Kailley Lindman)
Beachcomber's Rule No. 2: Never Bet on Another Man's Game (Lost Lake, Chicago)
Nodding to the world’s first Tiki bar, the original 1930s Don the Beachcomber, this cocktail calls up the story of a patron who once wagered that he could drink more than two Zombies, a bet he lost after bar man Donn Beach added glycerin to the drinks. Following the 1950s iteration of the Zombie cocktail, this large-format recipe calls for three types of rum—overproof demerara rum, overproof Jamaican rum and aged Jamaican rum—tempered with passionfruit, pineapple, lime, lemon, falernum and Angostura bitters.
Golden Fang (Death & Co, New York City)
Served in a Tiki-style scorpion bowl, this large-format elixir by head bartender Tyson Buhler employs two types of gin (Perry’s Tot and St. George dry rye gin), rather than rum, as the base. Built with lime and orange juices, as well as ginger, passion fruit and vanilla syrups, the mix is finished with bright cardamom bitters, then garnished with orchid and cinnamon. A flame is used for both visual appeal and to ignite the cinnamon, producing a spicy, toasted aroma.
Anise Monk (Faith & Flower, Los Angeles)
Fans of the traditional Russian method of igniting, capturing and inhaling the fumes from absinthe can find an array of options under the Leap of Faith section of the menu at this American eatery. Among those is barkeep Darwin Pornel’s Anise Monk, a fiery yet decadent pour of Pernod absinthe and Frangelico’s hazelnut soothed by cinnamon, cream and mint.
Backseat Leather (Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston)
Evoking the warm nostalgia of a weathered car, young gun bartender Alex Negranza starts his spirit-forward concoction with a plate of aromatic star anise, which is flash-soaked in overproof rum, lit aflame and smoked in the glass to achieve a floral brightness. A dual kick of Pampero Aniversario rum and Ardbeg 10-year single-malt scotch is then layered in the glass with the French aperitif Bonal Gentiane-Quina, herbaceous Becherovka and Scrappy’s black lemon bitters.
(image: Alex Negranza)Continue to 5 of 11 below.
Off the Coast of Hanauma Bay (Dram & Grain, Washington, D.C.)
In this large-format frozen Tiki quaff by barman Andy Bixby, the flame is only a small part of a showstopping presentation. Sweet-sipping Ron Zacapa 23 and robust Thomas Tew Widows Walk white rum are fused with lime juice and an array of time-intensive, house-made ingredients—toasted coconut orgeat, mavi falernum (made with a Puerto Rican fermented tea), the bartender’s eponymous Bixby’s Beach Bar dram and dried plum bitters—all over crushed ice in a ceramic treasure chest. At the center is a charred lime half, filled with absinthe and overproof rum and lit on fire at the table.
Root Beer Mint Julep (Grey Lady, New York City)
At this New England–style oyster and cocktail bar, the classic summertime Mint Julep gets a whimsical, confectionary update with the additions of Galliano, crème de noyaux, crème de menthe and root beer bitters. Crowning the top is a large marshmallow, toasted with a mini blowtorch upon serving.
(image: Charlie Gliwa)
Tiki Torch (Beelman’s Pub, Los Angeles)
This sure isn’t your average frat party shot. At DTLA’s gastropub standby, Vance Daniels’ flaming miniature quaff fortifies three parts Campari with one part overproof rum. A lime wedge garnish is set on fire and dashed with a sprinkle of cinnamon before you throw it all back.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
Jet Pilot (Hale Pele, Portland, Ore.)
At Portland’s beloved classic Tiki bar, find this variation on Don the Beachcomber’s Test Pilot, which was created by Donn Beach acolyte Mariano Licudine for Mai-Kai’s original 1956 menu. Three rums—gold, overproof and the sweet molasses-blasted black strap variety—are shaken with grapefruit juice, falernum, cinnamon, absinthe and Angostura bitters. Poured over crushed ice in a goblet, the drink is then topped with a floating, flaming lime shell.
Smoke & Spice (Spoke & Steele, Indianapolis)
For this earthy recipe, bartender Tyler Burns starts by igniting a cedar plank using a blowtorch. Placing a coupe glass over the top to capture the smoke, he builds the rest of the sweet-and-spicy drink—reposado tequila, amaretto, apple and herb bitters, cayenne pepper—in a beaker, allowing guests to pour its contents into the smoke-filled glass before the first sip.
Social Bandit (Annex at GreenRiver, Chicago)
Veteran drinks woman Julia Momose lightens a heady mix of rum, tequila and mezcal with a fruit-forward mistelle de framboise, fragrant vanilla and smoked black peppercorn. The theatrical finish is a spray of absinthe sent through a flame over the glass.