Layering Drinks

Given that my one of my earlier recipes – The Trespasser – was a layered shot, I thought it might be beneficial to do a step by step guide as to how to layer a drink. Fun fact, layered drinks are also sometimes referred to as Pousse Café drinks which literally means ‘coffee pusher’. Don’t say you didn’t learn something today!

There are 2 things that I would say are key to layering a drink; first, remembering that the order in which you layer your components is very important and is determined by the density of the liquid. You start with the heaviest liquid, the onto the next heaviest and so on and so forth. It may take some trial and error to find the exact order if it’s a new recipe. Secondly, don’t try and rush it. It takes time and precision to layer a drink as each layer must be poured slowly and carefully to avoid mixing it with the previous layers.

In this guide we’re making a Fourth of July shot – i’m sure you can guess how it’s going to end up looking. The ingredients are grenadine, triple sec/cointreau and blue curaçao.  Now, without any further ado, here’s the Geek and Tonic step-by-step guide to layering drinks:

Step 1: The First Layer

Pour the first ingredient straight down the centre of the glass taking care not to get any drips down the side as this may accidentally mix layers later on. In this case, grenadine is the first layer as it is the heaviest – generally if it’s super syrupy, it’s going first.


Step 2: The Second Layer

Now this is where steady hands come into play. Using a bar spoon (a teaspoon will work too, but a bar spoon has a much longer handle which i’ve found makes the process easier), turn the spoon upside down and press the tip of it downwards against the glass so that there’s a slope towards the first layer. I’ve been told that putting the tip of the spoon so it’s just above the first layer helps prevent mixing, but I can’t say i’ve noticed too much of a difference than if the spoon is higher up the glass. Now pour the second layer – for this shot, thats’s the triple sec – slowly onto the back of the spoon so that it rolls down the side of the glass onto the next layer. Once you’re done, leave it to one side for a minute or two to help the layers settle.


Step 3: The Third Layer

Repeat the process above with the third layer, and any further layers you wish to attempt. For the Fourth of July, the third and final layer is blue curaçao. I have a slight confession to make with this one; when I was making the shot for this guide, I didn’t put enough triple sec in the second layer to get the cool mock-flag look which was only apparent when I had done the third layer, by which time it was too late. Feeling slightly daring, I decided to attempt to top up with a little bit of extra triple sec by using the bar spoon method again and hope that it wouldn’t muddle the entire thing. After letting the shot settle, I saw that luckily it had worked. The moral of the story is that if the density of the liquids are fairly similar, you might be able to get away with doing the same but I wouldn’t pin your hopes on it. Instead, it would be better if you made sure you used the correct amount of each ingredient as you doing each layering to prevent any mishaps, no matter how delicious they may be.

The more layers you have, the harder it is to get the clear distinction between them and the higher the risk of the layers collapsing and merging. However, so long as you’re careful and patient you will probably be able to do as many as you want.


And there you have it! Your first layered shot.

Thoughts, feedback or have your own recipe? Let us know here!