How to layer a cocktail

How to layer a cocktail

A layered cocktail is also known as a pousse-café drink. This is introduced by bartender Jerry Thomas who in 1862 wrote the first cocktail book, including layered cocktails. Layering a cocktail might seem difficult, but when you know the basics, everybody can do it! We'll learn you all about it.

Layering a cocktail depends on two elements:

1. Layer-ability: The simultaneous working of sugar content and ABV. If you have two liqueurs that both contain 100 grams of sugar per liter but one has 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) and the other 20% ABV, the 40% liqueur will float on top of the 20% one. If you have two liqueurs and both are 20% ABV but one has 100 grams of sugar per liter and the other 200 grams, the one with 100 grams of sugar per liter will float on top of the 200 grams liqueur.

2. Technique: If the layer-ability of two liquids is quite close, your technique may allow you to make layers that strictly speaking shouldn’t work.

Always use an existing recipe whenever possible – there are many well-known layered drinks and they work. Do not give in to the temptation to make an a-la-minute drink based on wacky colour combinations. For some layered drinks, where the layers have widely differing layer-ability (the B52 is a good example) you won’t need much technique at all: you can even get by without pour spouts or even a barspoon.

Here is how you can make it work

Step 1: Pour the first ingredient into the glass.

Step 2: Rest a flat-ended bar spoon* just on the surface of the first ingredient.

Step 3: Pour the second ingredient down the stem of the bar spoon, lifting the spoon up as the level rises in the glass so the flat end is always just on the surface of the liquid.

Step 4: Repeat for the following layers.

* You can also use a speared cherry, a teaspoon, or even an ice cube, but a long, twist-stemmed flat-ended barspoon gives the best results.

Layering drinks doesn’t create any dilution, because you don't use any ice. Check out or video below for a short tutorial on how to layer the best cocktail!


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Cocktails with 3 ingredients
Cocktails with 3 ingredients