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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Drinks and Food » » Getting Toasted-The drama (and sometimes danger) of the flaming cocktail-The Atlantic
Getting Toasted-The drama (and sometimes danger) of the flaming cocktail-The Atlantic
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 05, 2011
Posts: 1616
From: Long Beach, CA via Dallas, TX
Posted: 2013-02-23 4:23 pm   Permalink

Wayne Curtis-author

The Ceres Joker may be the most Rube Goldberg–esque cocktail I’ve ever encountered. A scotch-and-sloe-gin drink, it is served at the subterranean London bar Purl, and it comes with a helium balloon tethered to the glass. The tether is actually a fuse, which the server lights upon delivering the drink. The freed balloon, which has been coated with lemon zest, rises about a foot before it detonates, infusing the immediate area with complicated scents of citrus and burnt nitrates. The goal, according to the drink’s inventor, Ryan Chetiyawardana, is “to emulate the aroma of gunpowder/rubber/struck match that’s sometimes found in sherry and extra-aged spirits.”

Chetiyawardana may be a pioneer in heliated mixology, but fiery theatrics with cocktails have a long and noble pedigree. The original flaming drink was the Blue Blazer, which appeared in the first bartender’s guide ever, published by Jerry Thomas in 1862. The drink involves high-proof scotch mixed with boiling water, which is then lit on fire and poured back and forth several times between two metal mixing cups. Adept bartenders could perform the pour with considerable distance between the cups, achieving what Thomas described as “the appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire.” It is surely a coincidence that Thomas got his start in San Francisco, a city plagued by disastrous fires during his residency.

Cocktails that make relatively discreet use of fire—typically ones in which a layer of high-proof rum is floated on top and ignited into a small, pale-blue flame—have been common over the years, but more-dramatic variations seem to be on the rise. At Apotheke, a bar in New York’s Chinatown, the bartender Albert Trummer’s fondness for fire attracted considerable attention in 2010, for both good and ill. He enjoyed unleashing a small stream of high-proof spirit down his long marble bar, lighting up a curtain of blue-and-yellow flame three feet high and six feet long. The first time he did this, he was cited for lacking an open-flame permit; during a later display, he was arrested by fire marshals. (He subsequently had a falling-out with the bar owners, and recently moved to Miami to open another establishment with the same name.)

At Trailer Happiness, in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, bartenders used to set the mood with a fire-breathing act, spitting spirit-fueled flames toward the liquor-misted copper ceiling, where a blaze would linger for several seconds, churning like mammatus clouds over Mordor. Alas, when new owners assumed control of the bar last year, they found that the practice “had worn all the copper away from the bar ceiling, exposing the plasterboard beneath,” according to Rich Hunt, one of the owners. It seemed wise to desist, so they did.

That’s probably for the best. Though impressive, such extreme pyrotechnics tend to detract from the ways in which, done right, flame and heat can transform a drink beguilingly. At Booker and Dax, part of the Momofuku empire in Manhattan, “red-hot poker” drinks are made with electrically charged rods modeled after the colonial-era loggerhead, a tool used to keep tar pliable. The modern version heats up to 1,500 degrees, and when it’s plunged into a drink, it caramelizes the sugars, giving the beverage a slightly butterscotchy flavor and a toasted top note.

The “flaming volcano bowl” has been a fixture at tiki bars since the 1950s. But Martin Cate, the owner of the San Francisco rum bar Smuggler’s Cove, has given the drink new life with his Top Notch Volcano Bowl, which features a towering yellow flame fueled by a crouton soaked in high-proof lemon extract. The server sprinkles the flame with cinnamon and nutmeg, which spark and snap above the bowl, creating a Lilliputian fireworks display. The room fills with the smell of the toasted spices, which then settle in the fruit-heavy drink, adding what Cate calls “a nice roasty flavor, with a little sharpness so it cuts the sweetness.”

In the past, Cate went further still, spraying high-proof liquor through the flame with a mister to create a formidable fireball. But he recently cut back on that practice, after several out-of-town, off-duty fire inspectors stopped in for a drink and, witnessing the process, asked him about the “accelerant.” As Cate puts it, “That’s a red flag when you own a bar.”

Video of how to make a Blue Blazer.


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 9193
From: Anaheim,Ca.
Posted: 2013-02-23 4:35 pm   Permalink

thanks for pointing this out for us.


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 05, 2011
Posts: 1616
From: Long Beach, CA via Dallas, TX
Posted: 2013-02-23 4:37 pm   Permalink

[ This Message was edited by: tikilongbeach 2013-02-23 17:39 ]

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Little fragrant Tiare
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 12, 2007
Posts: 211
Posted: 2013-02-25 06:32 am   Permalink

I saw the flaming copper roof show at the Trailer Happiness last yesr and it was quite impressive. So it must have been before they stopped or they got a new copper roof...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 24, 2008
Posts: 242
From: Renton, WA
Posted: 2013-02-26 05:56 am   Permalink

Awesome little article - thanks for posting! I've got one of those loggerheads, technically called a flip, for making the Colonial-era flips and mulled drinks, made by a local blacksmith. I haven't tried it, it just hangs on the wall.

Another fiery drink to bring up is the Spanish Coffee, invented by Huber's Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The prep varies a bit depending on where you go, but a wine glass is rimmed with lemon juice, then sugar, dosed with a bit of 151 (I use Stroh 80, has more flavor) and ignited, and rolled around to caramelize the sugar rim. Some places (Huber's doesn't do this) then shake ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg into the open glass, turning the flames red-orange and making showers of sparks. Then add a shot or two of liqueurs - Huber's uses Kahlua, my favorite is Xtabentun and El Jimador tequila - fill with coffee, and top with whipped cream. (My bar of choice, Zig Zag in Seattle, uses hand-whipped cream and grates a whole nutmeg on top). I make these at parties; they're easy, can be tailored to suit, and look showy.

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