Flaming beverages include cocktails and other mixed drinks that contain flammable, high-proof alcohol, which is ignited prior to consumption. The alcohol may be an integral part of the drink, or it may be floated as a thin layer across the top of the drink. The flames are mostly for dramatic flair. However, in combination with certain ingredients, the flavor of the drink is altered. Some flavors are enhanced, and it may impart a toasted flavor to some drinks.
Combining fire with alcohol can be dangerous. Proper precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of both the bartender and the patrons drinking the beverage. The drink should not be consumed while the flames are still burning. The drinkware may become quite hot to hold or to sip from, and that could result in burns. Additionally, there always is a risk of spills or catching other items on fire, especially if the patrons are already intoxicated.
Alcohol has been consumed as a beverage for millennia. It has been used as a fuel for fire for a long time as well. Exactly when people began combining alcohol in beverages with fire is uncertain.
Many traditional recipes for food incorporate flaming alcohol as a key process or ingredient. This method of cooking is usually referred to as flambé. Bananas Foster, cherries jubilee, bombe Alaska, crêpe Suzette, steak Diane, and coq au vin are a few well-known dishes that utilize this method for both imparting complex flavors in the food and, in the case of all but the last, a spectacle performed at the tableside. During the Victorian era, flaming steamed puddings became a tradition.
In the mid-1800s, a typical saloon would serve basic spirits, such as whiskey, brandy, or gin. For a sweet variation, a little sugar might be added. For special occasions and depending on availability of the ingredients, various punches, toddies, egg nogs, grogs, or mulled wines might be provided, especially at social events. Somewhere between at least the 1600s and the 1860s, people began to light the alcohol on fire.
Blue Blazer cocktail
The first bartender's manual, written by Jerry Thomas and published in 1862, contains the recipe for the first flaming cocktail, the Blue Blazer. The book, How to Mix Drinks, describes:76–77 how to turn a hot toddy made with Scotch into a "blazing stream of liquid fire":
197. Blue Blazer.
(Use two large silver-plated mugs, with handles.)
- 1 wine-glass of Scotch whisky.
- 1 do. Boiling water.
- Put the whisky and the boiling water in one mug, ignite the liquid with fire, and while blazing mix both ingredients by pouring them four or five times from one mug to the other, as represented in the cut. If well done this will have the appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire.
- Sweeten with one teaspoonful of pulverized white sugar, and serve in a small bar tumbler, with a piece of lemon peel.
The "blue blazer" does not have a very euphonious or classic name, but it tastes better to the palate than it sounds to the ear. A beholder gazing for the first time upon an experienced artist, compounding this beverage, would naturally come to the conclusion that it was a nectar for Pluto rather than Bacchus. The novice in mixing this beverage should be careful not to scald himself. To become proficient in throwing the liquid from one mug to the other, it will be necessary to practise for some time with cold water.:76–77
The art of preparing mixed drinks with style and pizazz, as opposed to simply pouring sedately from a bottle, is referred to as flair bartending. A little flair, such as a quick flip or spin of a bottle, is a fairly common way for bartenders to impress patrons and enhance the drinking experience. However, preparing a flaming beverage for a patron is a whole other level of flair. Bars and nightclubs that specialize in this style of bartending tend to develop reputations for it, and people visit the establishment as much for the show as they do for the drinks.
Flamed orange twist
The skin of most citrus fruits, especially oranges and lemons, contain flammable volatile oils. When a slice of peel is squeezed over a drink above a flame, such as from a match or a lighter, the resulting spray passes through the flame and is slightly caramelized and produces a sparkle effect. Any change in flavor is subtle, but the act of setting a spray of orange oil is performance more than culinary enhancement. This technique can be done anytime a twist of citrus is called for in a drink recipe; however, drinks with stronger flavors are better for this than delicate ones. Since, after squeezing, the peel will be rubbed around the edge of the glass and then placed in the drink, it is best to use very clean fruits. Also, the fresher the fruit, the more oil there will be within the skin.
Floating lemon shell
A lemon or lime peel is hollowed out and floated inside a bowl or oversized snifter of mixed liquors and fruit juices. Overproof rum is poured into the hollowed shell and set alight. A small, fireproof dish of similar proportions may be used instead of a citrus peel. Placing a sugar cube inside the shell helps in two ways. First, it acts as a wick to present a better flame, and secondly, it adds weight to the shell and helps prevent tipping. The caramelized sugar cube is edible if it is not burned too badly.
When drinking absinthe, it is traditionally prepared following French ritual, in which cubed sugar is slowly dissolved into the absinthe by pouring cold water over the sugar. Absinthe is flammable liquor, and it can be used in flaming cocktails. An alternate Bohemian (Czech) ritual involves fire, but does not actually light the absinthe on fire. Instead of slowly dissolving the sugar with cold water, it is doused in absinthe and lit on fire. This results in caramelized sugar dripping into the absinthe, changing the flavor considerably. There are several other rituals that may be used to prepare absinthe.
Many different liquors and combinations thereof can be used as ingredients in flaming beverages. In theory, any beverage with 40% or more alcohol will ignite, although it takes at least 50% to produce a steady flame. This is a list only of ones mentioned in verifiable mainstream media sources. Any comments about liquors are attributed to the listed sources.
- Gin — burns, but the flame is not as pretty as higher proof alcohols
- Grand Marnier — smells pleasant while burning
- Overproof rum (also known as Rum 151)
- Sambucca — produces a beautiful blue flame and has a distinct aniseed smell.
- Scotch whisky:76–77
- Vodka — produces big, blue, beautiful flames.
Beer, with its high water content, is used in many cocktail both to quench flames and for flavor. For example, in the Flaming Dr. Pepper, a flaming shot glass full of liquors is dropped into a large beer mug and immediately consumed.
List of flaming beverages
There are many flaming beverages, and creative bartenders frequently invent new drinks and variations on existing drinks. This is a list only of drinks mentioned in verifiable mainstream media sources. Any comments about drinks are attributed to the listed sources.
- Flaming B-52
- Blue Blazer:76–77
- Flaming Dr. Pepper
- Flaming volcano, volcano bowl, or tiki love bowl
- Flaming Zombie
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- Jerry Thomas (1862). How to Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon-vivant's Companion, Containing Clear and Reliable Directions for Mixing All the Beverages Used in the United States, Together with the Most Popular British, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish Recipes, Embracing Punches, Juleps, Cobblers, Etc., Etc., Etc., in Endless Variety. Dick & Fitzgerald. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
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- "Absinthe Rituals". Alandia World of Absinthe. <!—Undated article.-->. Retrieved 2013-09-24. Check date values in:
- McMahon, Carla (2013-07-04). "Flaming Vodka Cocktails". Carla McMahon Photography. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
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