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in the mix a guide to cocktail techniques
by Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 3
continued from page 1

The layered drink (also known as a pousse-café, if you're feeling schmancy) works on a very simple principle: liqueurs vary in their density, and less dense liquids can float on top of more dense ones. Layering requires a gentle hand and a fair bit of practice, but no worries: half the fun is in knocking back the mistakes.

To layer a cocktail, you'll need to know what your ingredients weigh in relation to one another. Generally, the lower the proof of the alcohol, the more sugars and other fillers are in the liquid, which means that liqueurs with lower alcohol content will tend to be heavier than higher-proof booze.

Relative density of common liqueurs (heaviest to lightest)
Use this as a rough guide, as there'll be some variation from bottle to bottle, brand to brand

  • Grenadine (red), Crème de Cassis (dark red)
  • Kahlua (brown), Dark Crème de Cacao (brown), White Crème de Cacao (clear)
  • Blue Curacao (blue)
  • Triple Sec (clear), Tia Maria (brown)
  • Amaretto di Saranno (golden), Sambuca (clear)
  • Frangelico (brown), Drambuie (brown)
  • Campari (red)
  • Midori (green), Bailey's (cream)
  • Peppermint Schnapps (clear), Peach Schnapps (clear), Cointreau (clear), Cognac (amber), Grand Marnier (amber)
  • Southern Comfort (amber)

Layered drinks are usually done as shots; if you're attempting to make one in a bigger glass, keep in mind that it'll be easier in a glass with a smaller diameter than a larger one. With your glass of choice in front of you, add the heaviest ingredient first. For the next layer, take a spoon and place it upside down into the glass, with the tip touching the side of the glass. Slowly pour the next heaviest ingredient over the back of the spoon; the liquid should gently slide down the spoon and the side of the glass, and over the first layer. Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients.

Use this technique for: ha-has … done properly, layering is guaranteed to elicit oohs and ahhs, and hey, even failed attempts can be quaffed and enjoyed.


check out these related articles:
bar tools | build a basic bar | beyond the basic bar | drink dress-ups

or search all drink recipes by name or base ingredient 

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