The B-52 Cocktail

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The B-52 cocktail is a very popular mixed drink, or fancy drink as it is sometimes categorized. It is a short drink and part of its popularity is given by its name which, contrary to popular belief, was not named directly after the US B-52 Stratofortress long-range bomber, but after the band The B-52s. Of course, both the band and the drink got their names after this bomber, which is known for having been used during the Vietnam war in order to shoot incendiary bombs. This last feature is said to have inspired the flaming version of the cocktail.

There are other names for the B-52 cocktail, some people calling it Bifi or simply B52. However, although we know its name origins, the history of its invention is not as clear. The most convincing story is that it was invented by the head bartender at the Banff Springs Hotel located in Banff, Alberta. His name was Peter Fich and this wasn’t the first time he would name a new drink after bands he liked, or after song and album names. The B-52 was one of the first shooters, and it gained more popularity when one of Fich’s customers decided he liked the drink so much that he would add it to the menu list in his various restaurants from Alberta.

Like all popular drinks, the B-52 cocktail gave inspiration for numerous other variations based on its recipe; all of them have similar names, which is why together they are called the B-50 Series. All of these drinks are, like the original, layered when prepared correctly. Each ingredient has to have its own level in the glass, which is why one requires some basic knowledge of the drinks used in order to know which have the heaviest and which the lightest volume.

An official IBA cocktail, the B-52 cocktail requires the following ingredients:

  • 20 ml coffee liqueur
  • 20 ml Irish cream
  • 20 ml orange cognac, generally Cointreau

The drinks are poured in this order into a shot glass, so the coffee is at the bottom and the Cointreau at the surface. From the second ingredient, the Irish Cream, the bartender uses a bar spoon so the layers aren’t disturbed; thus, one gently pours cream over the back of a spoon, and then the Cointreau over the other two. No garnish is used for this drink, but one can add a stirrer if they want to feel all the ingredients mixed together when drinking. The method of pouring drinks on top of each other to create layers of color and taste is called “building”, and it is used for numerous other cocktails as well. Savvy bartenders perform this task by hand, but there are also machines which can produce B-52s in layers, and other similar drinks too.

Like mentioned before, a shot glass is usually used to serve the B-52 cocktail, but one can also use a sherry glass, or a heatproof glass in case you want to prepare a Flaming B-52, and the glass has to be filled to the top so less heat touches the edges.

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