Throwing Cocktails, Part Two: Playing with Fire

A man throwing a flaming cocktail.

If you've mastered the art of throwing a cocktail, then perhaps it's time to step up your game. Ready to add fire to the mix?

At the Curtain Club bar in Berlin's Ritz Carlton, award-winning bar manager Arnd Henning Heißen shows us how to throw the Kinky Blazer, his take on Jerry Thomas's classic flaming Blue Blazer cocktail. This time, instead of shakers, Heißen uses Turkish moka pots. The Kinky Blazer is best with a whisky that has fruity notes like Ardbeg Uigeadail. You can also switch out the spirit with anything that mixes well with tea. Jasmine tea, meanwhile, accentuates the intricate flavors of the cocktail.

Ingredients and tools:

  • 60 milliliters Ardbeg Uigeadail
  • 20 milliliters jasmine tea (chilled)
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 barspoons sugar syrup
  • 6 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 6 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 Turkish moka pots
  • bar torch
  • snifter glass to serve

Heißen’s preferred pouring tools for the Kinky Blazer are two hand-held Turkish moka pots, which have a wooden handle. He sources them from local markets in Kreuzberg, Berlin. There are other popular jugs for throwing a cocktail like the Kinky Blazer or Blue Blazer, but Heißen believes your hands end up too close to the edge of the jug. Because of the rim on the edge of the moka pots, Heißen feels his hands are more protected. Heißen’s demonstration of the Kinky Blazer is a choreography he has developed with extensive practice. Notice that the throwing motions are more contained and at a slightly shorter distance than when throwing a cocktail which has not been set on fire.

Safety warning: please make sure you’ve practiced plenty of times with water or throwing a cocktail which hasn’t been set on fire, before attempting the following. Your work floor should be non-flammable, and you should have fire-fighting equipment within easy reach.

A bartender clanging pots together. (Photos by Elizabeth Rushe.)For the performance, the bar lights are turned down low and a dramatic soundtrack is played loudly to enhance the atmosphere. Heißen announces the Kinky Blazer by gently banging the moka pots together. With this cue, regulars and visitors at the bar gather round to watch.

Bartender pouring into a serving glass.

To begin: Fill serving glass (ideally a snifter) with the jasmine tea, cloves and star anise. The whisky and bitters mixture will be set on fire and added to the tea later. The snifter glass will direct the aroma directly to the nose as you drink. Arnd recommends a large size snifter as the best option for the Kinky Blazer. If you use a tumbler, for example, it’s much too easy for the aroma to simply escape.

Bartender pouring whiskey into the mixing glass.

Add whisky, sugar syrup and bitters to one moka pot, using plenty of flourishes for each dash of bitters.

A bartender lighting liquid on fire.

Use a bar torch to set the whisky mixture on fire. The whisky must be overproof for this to work.

To aerate the mixture, use a slow long pour, using the same technique for throwing a cocktail, but not stretching your left arm down as much, so the distance between your two arms is shorter. The distance between your two arms is tighter, and you shouldn’t be stooping or stretching your lower arm down too much.

a bartender throwing a flaming cocktail

Start with the pots held out in front at eye level, with the mixture held in the pot in your right hand, and the empty pot ready to catch the pour in your left. Keeping your right hand in place, pull your left arm down, pouring from the pot in your right hand.

a bartender throwing a flaming cocktail \

Repeat this throw three times, starting on the right, shifting your arms slightly to the middle for the second, and again shifting your arms to the left for the third throw.

Flames separating as a bartender is pouring them between pots.

After five throws you will notice the flame becomes orange, and might even notice the flame separating.

Flames separating as a bartender is pouring them between pots.
Flames separating as a bartender is pouring them between pots.
Flames separating as a bartender is pouring them between pots.
A bartender pouring flaming liquid between pots.
A bartender pouring flaming liquid between pots.

To extinguish the flames, place one moka pot on top of the other one at a time, cutting off air supply

A bartender containing the flame between pots.

Once the flame has been put out, pour the hot liquid into the tea mixture in the serving glass

A bartender pouring the cocktail.

Twist a lemon peel above the glass, releasing its oil. To ensure your customer has the scent of lemon all the way through until they finish the drink, rub the rim and whole glass with the lemon peel, “70% of what you drink is through smell,” Heißen says.

A bartender garnishing a cocktail with a lemon peel.

Present the drink personally to your customer. Heißen comes out from behind the bar to personally deliver the Kinky Blazer to his customer directly, and he recommends that this is how the Kinky Blazer should always be served.