The B-52 is a layered shot, relying on specific gravity to keep the layers separated. Usually, the B-52 shot is made with Kahlúa, Irish cream, and Grand Marnier. Don’t listen to Wikipedia; I have never seen a B-52 with Cointreau. although I’m sure someone makes them that way. Read onward, and you should know how to make a B52, as well as all of the variant B52 shots. We’ll also touch on the origin story of this popular shot.
- ⅔ oz Kahlúa
- ⅔ oz Irish cream
- ⅔ oz Grand Marnier
- Splash Bacardi 151 (optional)
Using the back of a bar spoon, layer the Kahlúa, then the Irish cream into a shot glass. Layer the Grand Marnier in the same manner. If you want to make a Flaming B-52, leave a little room at the top, and add a thin layer of Bacardi 151. Either light the Bacardi, (if you’re making the flaming version), or simply serve the shot and enjoy!
The B-52 is a staple of bartending, but this particular shot also has a ton of lesser-known variations. Here is a list of the 5-50 family, with the ingredient layers listed from bottom to top.
- B-51: Equal parts Kahlúa, Irish cream, and Frangelico.
- B-52 with a Full Payload: Equal parts Kahlúa, Irish cream, Grand Marnier, Frangelico. Add a thin fifth layer of Bacardi 151 and light it on fire.
- B-52 in the Desert: Equal parts Kahlúa, tequila, and Grand Marnier.
- B-52 with Bombay Doors: Equal parts Kahlúa, Irish cream, Grand Marnier, and Bombay gin.
- B-53: Equal parts Kahlúa, sambuca, and Grand Marnier.
- B-54: Equal parts Kahlúa, amaretto, and Irish cream. Refrigerate the ingredients and chill the glass beforehand. Pour in this order: amaretto, Kahlúa, and Irish cream. The bottom two ingredients will not be perfectly separated.
- B-55 aka B-52 Gunship: Equal parts Kahlúa, Irish cream, and absinthe.
- B-57: Equal parts Kahlúa, Irish cream, and peppermint schnapps.
The B-52 shot was named after the fighter plane used in Vietnam. Perhaps the orange liqueur atop the shot was a visual metaphor for a downed plane on fire. This layered shot is a tasty combination of coffee liqueur, Irish cream, and orange cognac. As with all popular drinks, there is conjecture over who invented the B-52 first.
Origin of the B-52 Shot
There are three credible origin stories for the B52 cocktail. The first creation story states that the shot was invented in the late 1960s in Malibu, at the famous Alice’s Restaurant by an anonymous bartender. The second story says the B-52 was created in 1977 by Peter Fich at the Banff Springs Hotel in Calgary, Alberta. One of Fich’s customers owned a group of restaurants in Alberta, and quickly put the drink on his bar menus. One of these restaurants was the Keg Steakhouse in Calgary, which for many years was identified as the birthplace of the B-52. According to the third story, the B-52 was created in the late 1970s at the Maxwell’s Plum, by bartender Adam Honigman. Maxwell’s Plum was an iconic New York City restaurant and bar that was famous in the 1960s, which closed suddenly in 1988.