The Key Thing To Remember When Making Your Own Flaming Cocktails

Who among us hasn't wanted to light a cocktail on fire? It is one of the coolest things bartenders get to do. The flames on a cocktail serve two purposes. One, they make the drink look amazing. Two, they burn off evaporating alcohol and caramelize any sugars. The result is an overall more smooth and subtle drink, with complex undertones. It's a great party trick, and one that you can achieve at home should you feel so inclined. In order to do this without the risk of causing chaos or losing your eyebrows, there are a few key things to remember both for safety and for the optimal flame. 

The temperature of the booze is the most important thing to keep in mind. Unless you're working with incredibly strong, high ABV booze — which is risky — the alcohol you're using is not going to light if you serve it cold. Any alcohol with an ABV of 160 or lower needs to be warmed up in order to light. This is because the warmer the alcohol is, the faster it will evaporate; the more evaporating alcohol is in the air, the easier it will catch fire.

Just remember, however, that not all alcohol will catch fire. Anything that is under 40% is not likely to flame up, and if it does, it is not likely to produce the dramatic flare you're looking for. That being said, you don't want to be springing for the highest ABV alcohol either. It's far too volatile and very difficult to control. 

How to safely light your cocktail

All alcohol is volatile to a certain extent. When it comes to flammability, the higher strength you go, the easier it is going to be to light, even at cold temperatures. Knowing this, make sure that you are taking all the right safety steps in order to make sure that your flaming cocktails go off without a hitch. 

There are two big things you need do before you light up your drink. One, make sure there is nothing flammable on the counter around you. Two, make sure that your hands and clothes do not have any alcohol on them whatsoever. As with flambé, the flame will travel to where it can be fed, and if you have booze on you, it'll want to go there. In any situation involving open flames, it's also a good idea to tie back long hair and avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling jewelry.

Use a long stemmed lighter to keep your hands as far away from the flame as possible. Once lit, let the fire have its fun, appreciate it for a moment, and then extinguish the flames by smothering it with a large coffee mug or shaker tin. Under no circumstances should you ever drink a cocktail whose flames are still burning. That's a great way to end up in an ambulance to the ER. 

All in all, if you take the right precautions and are using alcohol with the right ABV at the right temperature, there is no reason your flaming cocktails shouldn't be a great success. Just don't get cocky.