For A Bolder Coffee Cocktail, Try Setting It On Fire

The intersection of fire and alcohol sounds like a calamity worthy of the front page. But, in the mixology world, showmanship and pyrotechnics are familiar friends. For a bolder coffee cocktail, try setting it on fire. For starters, it's an impressive visual (especially in low-lit bars). Legendary bartender Jerry Thomas' signature cocktail was called the Blue Blazer, and it was specially designed as a spectacle of mixology prowess. In it, scotch is set ablaze and juggled back and forth between two glasses. Folks have been setting their cocktails on fire since at least the 1800s, and not just because it looks cool.

Igniting cocktails increases their temperature, which can be super welcome in coffee-based drinks as an element of warm coziness. Plus, setting a coffee cocktail on fire brings out the more idiosyncratic notes within the beans, says The Washington Post. It's similar to the coffee bean roasting process, which enhances the beans' unique profiles and nuanced tastes. Fire also caramelizes the natural sugars in the coffee and toasts the spices for an aromatic treat. (Love that freshly-brewed coffee smell? Look no further than a torch). It's a sensory smorgasbord. Here's how to make fire work for your next coffee cocktail.

The hottest bartenders are doing it

In order to be flammable, liquors must have an ABV of 40% or higher. This is the standard ABV for most full-proof spirits, like gin, vodka, whiskey, and tequila. When adding other ingredients to your coffee cocktail, be mindful of their ABV. Kahlua, for instance, is a liqueur, not a liquor, and has a 20% ABV (which won't ignite). In fact, adding Kahlua into the mix will actually douse a fire. Be sure to add liqueurs after igniting.

To avoid a burn injury, light up your cocktails using a long-necked lighter. While matches and cigarette lighters are commonplace fixtures in most bars, you'll want the proper tool for the job here (your fingers will thank you). Hold the glass by the bottom and carefully rotate it so that the surface of the drink ignites evenly.

From there, the creation is yours to invent. For an easy yet impressive coffee cocktail, Hochstadter's makes a ready-to-drink Slow and Low Coffee Old Fashioned with a 40% ABV that will ignite, no problem. Plus, it's made with demerara sugar, which will caramelize under fire for a toasty sweetness. (Think browned butter in a batch of chocolate chip cookies). Or, set a white Russian ablaze and serve it with a crackling Baked Alaska for a dessert dinner party guests won't soon forget. (Just make sure everyone's eyebrows are still intact before sending them home). You could even toast a cinnamon stick or orange wheel for a smoky garnish.