B-52 (cocktail)

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IBA Official Cocktail
Cocktail B52.jpg
Type Layered shooter
Primary alcohol by volume
Served Neat; undiluted and without ice
Standard garnish Stirrer
Standard drinkware
Shot Glass (Standard).svg
Shot glass
IBA specified
Preparation Layer ingredients into a shot glass. Serve with a stirrer.
dagger B-52 recipe at International Bartenders Association

The B-52 (also B52 or Bifi or Bifty) cocktail is a layered shot composed of a coffee liqueur (Kahlúa), an Irish cream (Baileys Irish Cream), and a Grand Marnier (in later versions replaced with triple sec or Cointreau). When prepared properly, the ingredients separate into three distinctly visible layers (due to their relative densities).


The name refers to the US B-52 Stratofortress long-range bomber.[citation needed] This bomber was used in the Vietnam War for the release of incendiary bombs, which likely inspired today's flaming variant of the cocktail.

One story behind the B-52 is that it was invented by Peter Fich, a head bartender at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta.[citation needed] He named all of his new drinks after favourite bands, albums and songs. This drink was, of course, named after the band of the same name.[citation needed] One of his first customers for a B-52 owned restaurants in various cities in Alberta and liked the drink so much that he put it on the menu. This is why this, the first shooter, is commonly believed to originate at the Keg Steakhouse in Calgary, Alberta in 1977.[1] The B-52 is also rumoured[by whom?] to have been created by Adam Honigman, a bartender at New York City's Maxwell's Plum.[citation needed]

The B-52's widespread popularity has resulted in many variations, each earning a slightly different designation (see variations below for a small sampling). Altogether, the drinks are referred to as the B-50 series of layered cocktails.

The drink became a North London favourite in late 2009 when Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner changed his shirt number from 26 to 52, earning himself the nickname "B52" in the process.[citation needed]


There are special machines that can prepare a B-52 (or other multi-layered cocktails) in only a few seconds.[2] However, an experienced bartender usually relies on the traditional, hand-made preparation. This method of the preparation is called "building", as opposed to blending or shaking, thus, B-52s are "built."

B-52s are usually served in a shot glass or sherry glass, although a heatproof glass is required when a "flaming B-52" is served. First, a coffee liqueur, such as Tia Maria or Kahlúa, is poured into the glass. Next, Bailey's Irish Cream is poured very slowly over the back of a cold bar spoon, taking care to avoid disturbing the lower layer as the second liquor is poured on top. Just as carefully, Grand Marnier is poured atop the Irish Cream using the bar spoon.

The drink is sometimes made with a shaker and served in a cocktail glass, although this is less traditional.[3]

Flaming B-52[edit]

For a Flaming B-52, the top layer is ignited, producing a blue flame. Filling the glass to the top reduces the amount of glass exposed to the flames, making the glass less likely to break, but the drink is easier to spill. It is best to leave the flaming B-52 on the bartop and drink it through a straw. Once lit, the drink should be finished quickly to avoid overheating the glass and burning the straw. Unless the flame is extinguished before drinking, a fireproof straw—such as one made of metal—may be preferred.

Triple Sec at room temperature will not ignite easily, so it should be warmed up beforehand or topped with an additional layer of a dark overproof rum with 65-85% alcohol by volume. Such a preparation can be referred to as a "B-52 On a Mission".

Variant drinks[edit]

  • B-51, a B-52 with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur rather than Triple Sec.
  • B-52 with Bomb Bay Doors, a B-52 with a 4th layer of Bombay gin.
  • B-52 in the Desert, or a B-52 with a Mexican Tailgunner, a B-52 with tequila rather than Bailey's Irish cream.
  • B-52 with a Full Payload, a B-52 with a 4th layer of Frangelico and a 5th layer of Bacardi 151 rum lit on fire.
  • B-53, a B-52 with Sambuca rather than Irish cream.
  • B-54, a B-52 with Amaretto almond liqueur in place of Triple Sec.
  • B-55, a B-52 with absinthe rather than Triple Sec, also known as B-52 Gunship.
  • B-57, a B-52 with peppermint schnapps rather than Irish cream.
  • B-156, a B-52 but three times larger in an Old Fashioned glass.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mulligan, Shawn M. (2005). Mulligan's Bar Guide. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-200722-3. 
  2. ^ Youtube video of B52 machine
  3. ^ Regan, Gary (1991). The Bartender's Bible. New York: Harper Collins. p. 249. ISBN 0-06-016722-X. 

External links[edit]