B52 Shot Recipe

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B 52 shotThe 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.

B-52 Shot

B52 Shot

  • ⅔ oz Kahlúa
  • ⅔ oz Irish cream
  • ⅔ oz Grand Marnier
  • Splash Bacardi 151 (optional)

Prep Time:
Total Time:

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

B-52 cocktailThere 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.

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About the author

Jöhnny is one of the members of the modern day FNDC . In addition to coding and providing content for the site, he also enjoys playing the guitar and watching trippy movies. His favorite mixed drinks are whiskey sours and Jägerbombs. His favorite beers are Blackhawk Stout, Old Rasputin, and Sierra Nevada.

17 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Hi John, I remember the b52 being my favorite shot way back in my early 20’s . Twenty yrs ago. Just thinking that it may work with triple sec in place of Grand Marnier. Any thoughts?
    Thanks , -Kim

  2. Dan says:

    Actually the first flaming B-52 I had was in a small bar in 5 color city located in Dalian, China of all places. They used Cointreau, I was really surprised it lit on fire given the low % but it’s much better than using 151 IMO because of the taste. But to each it’s own, I guessing since it was in china wiki is law.

    • I’m a little surprised they got it to lightas well. I have heard of people using Cointreau, but it seems like the order of the layering would change. Thanks for sharing your story, Dan!

  3. Karen says:

    My favoret way to drink a B52 shot is in a cup of coffee, yum.

  4. My first B52 was in Houston, Tx at a business dinner. I had never heard of the drink and was surprised by the name since I live in Wichita, Ks. which is the air capitol of the world. Boeing here in Wichita built all the 52-s which were used during WWII.

    I like the idea of using cointreau and triple sec, so I will experiment. The history of the drink I find very interesting. Would love to know who really invented it.

    I love a good whiskey sour, now everyone can make a GOOD one.

  5. My first B52 was in Houston, Tx at a business dinner. My host suggested one and I found it superb as I liked all the ingredients. I had never heard of the drink and was surprised at the stories of who invented it. I live in Wichita, Ks, the air capitol of the World. Boeing Wichita built all the B52’s that few in WWII. I found the history very interesting. Would love to know who really invented it and when.

    I like the idea of using cointreau/triple sec, I’ll try it. I also love a good whisky sour, not very many people can make a good one, same applies to a good manhattan.

    • Hi DJ, that’s cool that you live near the airbases, there’s one not far from myself. You’re spot on about Manhattans being tricky to make well; Whiskey Sours aren’t difficult to make excellent, I just think people get in a hurry.

      Not sure who invented the B-52, one of those things lost to history.

  6. Mike says:

    B-52’s + hot tub party = daughter. (20 yrs ago) We’d like to have these more often, but the ingredients are kinda pricey. We’ll have to try one with triple sec, since we already have that (although it’s a lower proof). Thinking about making our own orange liqueur. Found the orange concentrate at the local home brew shop.

  7. Lynda says:

    Hi, maybe you might want to up date your page here. B52 are Bombers, not fighter planes. They flew in the latter part of 1950’s to the present. Fighters were used to seek aerial targets ; bombers, used for ground targets. But there are always exception to the rules.

  8. Trish says:

    I was actually trying to make B-52 shots for me, my boyfriend and cousin the other night with kahlua, bailies, and disarrona. The kahlua and then the balies goes in just fine perfectly separated. But for some reason, every time I try the ameretto, it just mixes. Even when I poured it slowly it sinks right through the balies like it is heavier yet looking at the gravity weight, bailies should be heavier. I even had one where the ameretto went straight to the middle and while cloudly it looked pretty separated. Do I just assume I am layering them wrong? Or am I doing it wrong?

    • Hi Trish:

      You were making the B-54, and what happened is perfectly normal. In that particular combo, the Baileys will rise to the top, and the Kahlua and amaretto will not be perfectly separated. You did everything right. This is what should have happened.

      I updated the page to make expectations for this variation more clear. Thanks for asking your question and helping us improve!

  9. Bali Tour says:

    Great article
    Thank you for the recipe

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