How To Flavor Your Drinks with Fire

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Drunk Prometheus. He stole fire from the gods, mixed it into a mojito, and drank it. We mortals can achieve the same effects without incurring any heavenly wrath. Today we’re going to show you a simple method to add a little savory char to your drink.[jump]

It’s Friday afternoon, you’ve made it through the long week, and it’s time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo’s weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. Anyone got a light?

There are ton of ways to flavor your drinks with fire. For example, our friends at Booker and Dax in NYC use a 1,500 degree red hot poker to make their drink The French Colombian. They really let it flame for a while. “But wait,” you drinkers cry in horror. “That’s burns off the alcohol!” Yes, it burns off some of the alcohol. That’s kind of the point. This allows them to use more spirit. Alcohol overwhelms your taste buds. By burning some of it off, it reveals the flavors in the spirit (Pernod, in this case). So you add more flavor without making it an alcohol punch to the face.


Another fiery trick you’ll see even more often, is expressing an orange peel onto your drink over a flame. When you get your drink with a twist, your bartender will generally squeeze the peel over the drink in order to express (read: spray) the oils over your drink and onto the glass. Because 90 percent of flavor is aroma, this gives your drink that crisp, citrusy flavor, without adding to the volume. These oils, however, are flammable. Stick a lighter or a match in between the orange and your glass, and when you squeeze you’ll spray a little burst of fire. You still get the citrus flavor, but it’s a little sweeter. It’s almost like caramelized orange. It’s a bit more dynamic and it’s a very nice finishing touch on something like an Old Fashioned.


There’s a bit of all that in the drink that Sother makes for us in the video above, but what we’re really doing is adding a savory charred flavor. Last month we showed you how to smoke a cocktail. This isn’t that. Smoking a cocktail gives in a very prominent, smoky flavor. It’s right for some drinks and horrible for others. This trick, however, is a much more subtle effect. By consciously pairing the spirit with the herb you’re going to be charring, you get flavors that work in harmony.


How To Make a Fiery Last Word


  • 1 ounce Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1 ounce tequila blanco
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano


  • 1. Put the fresh oregano into the tumbler you’re going to serve. Let it sit loosely.
  • 2. Pour half an ounce of Chartreuse over the oregano in the glass, and set aside.
  • 3. Pour the rest of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice.
  • 4. Using a lighter, carefully ignite the Chartreuse in the glass. As it burns, shake the rest of the cocktail in the shaker.
  • 5. Once the oregano leaves have a nice char on them, pour the mixed drink over it. Give it a little stir and enjoy. (Just make sure the flames went out, smart guy.)

I actually much preferred this to the traditional Last Word. Normally, the gin (that’s the usual spirit, not tequila) pulls the focus away from the more subtle herby flavors. This version lets the Chartreuse do its thing, and adds the smoked oregano flavors. It’s subtle, and it nicely binds it all together.

In summary: Hooray for fire.

Sother Teague is a former R&D chef for Alton Brown on Good Eats (Food Network) and instructor at NECI (New England Culinary Institute). He is currently consulting chef at Consulting at Proletariat (a rare, new and unusual beer bar) and the Bourgeois Pig’s Brooklyn location. He is also a barman at Amor y Amargo, Prime Meats, and Booker & Dax. Follow his @CreativeDrunk Twitter feed.