Some shots are pure liquor, others are shaken, and the B-52 is created by layering three different types of alcohol on top of each other. With the help of a bar spoon and a steady hand, bartenders can layer the three ingredients due to different densities.
Quick Facts B-52 Shot
- Method: built in glass
- Flavor profile: sweet
- How to serve it: straight up
- Best glassware: shot glass or sherry glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 26% ABV, 9.5 grams of alcohol per serving
The shot looks fun, tastes sweet, and is easy to drink. So let's look at how you nail this shot and what else there is to know about the B52 Shot.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Bar spoon
- 0.5 oz Kahlúa coffee liqueur
- 0.5 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
- 0.5 oz Grand Marnier
- Pour coffee liqueur into a shot glass.0.5 oz Kahlúa coffee liqueur
- Use a bar spoon and gently pour Irish Cream over the back of the bar spoon to avoid mixing up the layers.0.5 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
- Finally, do the same with Grand Marnier.0.5 oz Grand Marnier
How to make a B-52 - Tips & Tricks
First, chill all ingredients properly and then measure all three components evenly. You need 0.5 oz of each liqueur. Then, pour the coffee liqueur (often Kahlúa) into the shot glass.
Next comes Irish cream. Pour it gently over the back of a bar spoon and hole the bar spoon as close as possible over the shot glass. You want to minimize the impact when the Irish cream "hits" the coffee liqueur, so it won't break the surface and mix.
Finally, the same for Grand Marnier. Ensure to do this slowly and gently to get nice and sharp layers. Flawlessly layered like this, the B-52 is the perfect crowd-pleaser.
Lately, bars even have machines to create such layered shots and do the work for them. Yet, even though it's not exactly a qualification you need to work behind a bar, every seasoned bartender can quickly make them with the help of a bar spoon.
Why Does the B 52 Layer?
The reason that you can layer a B52 is simple: Each element has a different density. Starting with the first layer, Kahlua is the densest, then Irish cream and triple sec has the lowest density and floats on top.
Now, if you know a bit about physics, you may have heard that the density of liquids depends on their temperature. However, all ingredients should come out of the fridge, thus, have the same temperature.
Another fact is that alcohol (ethanol) has a lower density. So, the higher the ABV, the lighter the liquid. But why does Irish cream float on coffee liqueur, even though coffee liqueur often has a higher ABV?
That, in turn, is due to the natural oils in coffee beans. These oils create a soapy texture, less dense than water but more vicious. Hence, a liquid will float on top.
How does a B52 taste?
The taste of a B52 is best described as creamy and caramel-like, with hints of orange. The blend of coffee liqueur and Irish cream creates a blend pretty close to toffee or caramel. Grand Marnier adds beautiful citrusy orange notes.
By the way, if you don't want the citrus flavor, the two lower layers - coffee liqueur and Bailey's- are also part of another famous shot: the Baby Guinness.
Substitutes for Grand Marnier
Traditionally, Grand Marnier is used to create the top layer of a B-52 shot. Yet, bartenders often replaced it with clear-colored triple sec because it is readily available, affordable, and part of many other cocktails.
Grand Marnier is a category of its own and is regarded as being of higher quality. It has a Cognac base, which makes for a rich and complex flavor profile that also carries notes of vanilla and oak.
If you opt for triple sec, Cointreau is a top option but also a pricy one. The clear and transparent liquid has a fresh and citrusy aroma and taste. It's a key ingredient to many classic cocktails and should be part of every home bar. You can use this in the B-52 or opt for a more affordable triple sec.
Origin of the B-52 Shot
A bartender named Peter Fich is most likely the inventor of this layered shot. Supposedly, he came up with the recipe in 1977 when working at Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada.
Fich had a preference to name his drink creations after bands. Therefore, the three-layer shot owes its name to an American New Wave band from Athens, Georgia. That means, ultimately, the drink is named after the US B-52 Stratofortress bomber.
That is because the band B-52 borrowed its name from the bomber as its nose shape resembled the haircut of Cindy Wilson, singer of the band.
Even though the story is unaccounted for in writing, it makes sense in the historical context: As for the time of its invention, we can tell that the B52 didn't make it into Jones' Complete Barguide from 1977. -The most exhaustive drink collection from that time, written by Stan Jones.
However, the party shot made its debut ten years later in a cocktail book called The Bartender's Cherry by Mark Torre. Consequently, most likely, the drink was invented somewhere between 1977 and 1987.
The simplicity and presentation of the shot led to countless riffs on the classic recipe. Bartenders started adding ingredients, replacing ingredients, and even putting ingredients on fire.
To get an idea of how many B-52 variations there are, here's a list:
- B-51: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream, Frangelico
- Flaming B-52: B-52 with the top layer set on fire
- B-52 with Bomb Bay Doors: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream, Grand Marnier, Bombay Sapphire Gin
- B-52 Frozen: B-52 blended with crushed ice
- B-52 On a Mission: Flaming B-52 with a top layer of Bacardi 151 instead of Grand Marnier
- B-52 in the Desert: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Grand Marnier, Tequila
- B-53: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Sambuca, Grand Marnier
- B-54: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream, Amaretto liqueur
- B-55: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream, Absinthe
- B-57: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Peppermint schnapps, Grand Marnier
- B-156: Cocktail-sized version of a B-52, three times larger than the shot's name (3 x 52 = 156)
- B-5200: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream, Navy Rum
- F-16: Kahlúa coffee liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream, White Rum