Layered Drinks

There are a lot of different drinks out there and a bunch of different ways to build them. There are drinks that should be shaken, there are drinks that should be stirred, punches prepared en masse, and highballs that are mixed right in the serving glass. But perhaps the most uniquely prepared and presented drinks are layered drinks.

When a bartender or home boozehound makes a complicated drink, it’s often referred to as “building” a drink, and here this term seems most apt. Layered drinks are assembled directly in the serving glass, generally a Pousse-Cafe glass or other small vertical glass. Ingredients are added in descending order of density, so that (if successfully executed) each new liquid floats in a clearly defined layer on top of the last.

The technique to achieve this effect is fairly simple, but could take some practice. Once the first, densest ingredient has been poured in the glass, take a small spoon (bartenders generally use a bar spoon) and holding it at an angle, just break the surface of the liquid with the edge of the spoon, convex side up. Then, pour your next ingredient over the back of the spoon. The idea is that the spoon breaks the liquid’s momentum and keeps it from mixing with the previous ingredient. For the sake of accuracy in pouring, a pour spout is highly recommended. In this way you add each new layer on top of the last until your drink is built.

If that description wasn’t quite clear, it helps tremendously to see the process performed before you try it yourself. There are an incredible number of videos on YouTube that can help you master various bar skills. Here’s a good one for layering drinks.

Once your drink is built, the next question becomes how to drink it. Many layered drinks are shots, so there’s little technique involved. On the other hand, the Mind Eraser is supposed to be drunk through a straw so that you get one layer at a time from the bottom up. True to its name, the Mind Eraser is also supposed to be taken in one swift gulp. Though you might want to relax the pace a bit, a similar technique works well for most other layered drinks as well.

We’ll post recipes (and pictures) for the Mind Eraser and Pousse-Cafe, and feel free to submit your own favorite layered drink recipes.

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