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Three Ways: Flamed Cocktails

Part technique and part show, flaming cocktails have been dazzling drinkers for centuries. With an assist from high-ABV spirits, bartenders set beverages aflame to draw eyes and amuse, but to also impart a deeper flavor and caramelize sugars. Today’s renditions of incendiary mixology can present flaming rum atop shared tiki bowls, invoke warmth into holiday-accented coffee drinks, and add a smoky component to garnishes. 

Kinnegad Sour

A riff on the Trinidad Sour, the Kinnegad Sour—created by beverage consultant Jared Wegner for Irish pub T.C. O’Leary’s in Portland, Oregon—swaps lemon for lime and adds a dramatic flourish in the form of flaming overproof rum at the bottom of a coupe, before the remaining ingredients are added.

1 3/4 oz. Irish whiskey
3/4 oz. orgeat
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. Angostura bitters
1/4 oz. overproof rum
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine mesh strainer, match
Glass: coupe

To prepare the drink, make a spice blend by combining 1 tsp. each of ground allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a shaker, add 1 3/4 oz. of Irish whiskey, 3/4 oz. of orgeat, 3/4 oz. of fresh lime juice, and 1/2 oz. of Angostura bitters. Before adding ice to the shaker, add 1/4 oz. of overproof rum to a coupe and carefully ignite with a match. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of your spice blend over the flaming rum and watch the fireworks, then add ice to the shaker and shake well. Carefully double strain into the still-flaming glass to extinguish, and serve.

Jared Wegner, T.C. O’Leary’s, Portland, Oregon

Café Brûlot

The Café Brûlot may represent the epitome of flaming theatrics. Nowadays, it’s a holiday classic for its wintery spice components, but it’s also a year-round cornerstone for NOLA restaurant Arnaud’s. “What sets our recipe and presentation apart is the way we use the fire,” explains co-owner Katy Casbarian of the elaborate tableside showcase. While other iterations of the drink shorten the preparation by setting all of the ingredients aflame at once, Arnaud’s breaks the process into flavor-enhancing steps with flair. “We feel it’s such an important part of creating the most well-balanced, flavorful cocktail, and that’s why the presentation is so important to that.”

15 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 lemon
1 orange
3 cups hot black coffee
4 oz. orange Curaçao
2 oz. brandy
2 Tbsp. sugar

Tools: copper Brûlot bowl or chafing dish, large ladle, long match
Glass: mug
Garnish: lemon peel

To make the drink, peel an orange halfway in a continuous curl, keeping it attached to the orange, and stud the curl with about 15 cloves evenly dispersed down the peel. In a copper Brûlot bowl or chafing dish, add the peel of one lemon and two cinnamon sticks, gently crushing them with the back of a large ladle, and place over medium heat. Fill the ladle with 2 oz. of brandy and 4 oz. of orange Curaçao, then carefully light it with a long match. Spear the orange on a large fork and hold it above the bowl, then slowly pour the flaming liquid over the orange, letting it flow into the bowl. Once the flames begin to fade, add 3 cups of hot black coffee and 2 Tbsp. of sugar, stirring to dissolve, then serve in a mug with a lemon peel. 

Arnaud’s, New Orleans


Con Alma in Pittsburgh transforms a tropical Mai Tai into cold-weather comfort with the Thermo, a cocktail created by bar manager Hannah McKee that pays homage to jazz drummer Art Blakey. “One of our favorite parts of flame is how it takes the simple act of consuming a beverage to another level by transforming it into an experience,” says Lissa Brennan at Con Alma. “And small as it is, it additionally imparts a bit of actual warmth! These sensory aspects turn just one single drink into something shared by everyone at the table.” Warming flavors come in the form of a candied ginger vodka and a nut-free, spiced orgeat. 
Ginger-infused vodka750ml vodka
1 cup finely chopped candied ginger
Spiced orgeat2 cups oat milk
2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup whole cloves
3 cups hot black coffee
2 oz. vodka
2 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. orange blossom water
Cocktail1 oz. candied ginger–infused vodka
1 oz. Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum
1 1/2 oz. spiced orgeat
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. overproof rum

Tools: shaker, strainer, long match
Glass: heat-safe pint glass
Garnish: pineapple frond, dehydrated lime wheel

To infuse the vodka, combine 1 cup of finely chopped candied ginger in a large jar with 750ml of vodka. Infuse overnight at room temperature, then strain and bottle for use within one month.

To make the orgeat, combine 2 cups of oat milk, 2 cups of white sugar, 1/4 cup of whole cloves, and 2 1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until it is dissolved. Let cool, then add 1 tsp. of orange blossom water and 2 oz. of vodka, and strain the mixture and bottle for use, keeping refrigerated for up to one month.

To mix the cocktail, add 1 oz. of candied ginger–infused vodka, 1 oz. of Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum, 1 1/2 oz. of spiced orgeat, 1 oz. of pineapple juice, and 1/2 oz. of fresh lime juice to an ice-filled shaker and shake well. Strain into a heat-safe pint glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a pineapple frond and place a dehydrated lime wheel atop the drink. Top with a 1/2 oz. float of overproof rum, then carefully ignite the rum with a long match, letting it burn for 10 seconds.

Hannah McKee, Con Alma, Pittsburgh

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