Food & Drink

How to Layer a Cocktail

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

There’s hardly a cocktail that looks more attractive than a pousse café, a strikingly layered drink meant to be served alongside coffee and sipped layer by layer. The French term translates to “coffee pusher,” and though it looks simple enough, it takes skill to get it right.

The trick to making a pousse café is knowing the precise order in which to layer the liquids so they remain distinct. The base of the drink should be the heaviest liquid—the one with the highest sugar content. Then, continue to layer accordingly, going from heaviest to lightest—usually ending with a straight spirit.

The B-52 shot—a layered shot of Kahlua, Baileys and Grand Marnier—is one of the few surviving pousse cafés, along with the Duck Fart, a shot that’s nearly identical to the B-52, but is capped off with a layer of whiskey rather than Grand Marnier. Though both the B-52 and the Duck Fart are meant to be thrown back quickly instead of sipped, the process of making them is the same as it would be for any pousse café. Here, step-by-step instructions for layering a drink.

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Step One

Starting with the heaviest liquid in the drink—or the liquid with the most sugar content—pour the first layer into the glass.

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Step Two

To add a second layer, place a spoon upside down inside of your glass—near, but not touching the first layer of alcohol—and very slowly pour the second liquid over the spoon. Be very careful; if you pour too quickly, the layers will become muddied together.

Matthew Kelly/Supercall
Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Step Three

Repeat step two for each subsequent layer, making sure to layer progressively lighter and lighter liquids on top of each other. In other words, go from the liquid with the highest sugar content to the liquid with this lowest sugar content.