The secret of layered cocktails

A layered cocktail is a type of mixed drink in which its ingredients naturally have different densities, and therefore it is possible to create levels or layers in the glass, typically from two to seven, avoiding of course not mixing. They are mostly of small format, since the wider the surface to occupy in the glass, the more difficult it is to stabilize a layer. Therefore, they are also known by the name of layered shots (layered shots /leɪərd ʃɒts/).

The main reason for making layered cocktails is aesthetic. Traditionally, layered cocktails are also called Pousse-café (from the French, /pus kafe/ “push-cafés”), as they were common in post-revolutionary France (1800s) to accompany a cup of coffee.


The technique consists of pouring the ingredients according to their relative density. Liqueurs with a greater amount of dissolved sugar are denser and should therefore be poured first. The alcohol molecule weighs less, so drinks with higher ethyl content should be poured last. Liquids are slowly poured one over the other with the help of the back of a teaspoon. Professional bartenders use the bar spoon. A popular layered shot is the B-52 (Bailey’s, Kahlúa and Grand Marnier).

How to Create Layered Cocktails

Always wanted to know how bartenders made sumptuous layered cocktails? We’re finally going to tell you the secret!

These cocktails are all made by following a simple but essential rule to get an aesthetic result. To do this, remember your chemistry classes:

The different types of liquids incorporated in a cocktail do not all have the same density, and are therefore all more or less light. Indeed, very sweet liquids like syrups are the heaviest, so they will immediately fall to the bottom of the glass when the cocktail is made. Fruit juices are lighter than syrups, but are still heavier than spirits. So the alcohols will most often be the layer closest to the surface of the glass, as alcohol is lighter than water.

To create your layered cocktail, simply assemble your cocktail by layering, i.e. from the heaviest liquid to the lightest. For example, for a 3-layer cocktail, you would pour the syrup first, then the juice, and finally the alcohol.

To help you create each layer of your cocktail, you can pour your different liquids into the hollow of a spoon with the tip touching the inside rim of the glass. For those with more equipment, use a mixing spoon handle. This technique allows you to control the flow of the liquid and to pour it more gently into the glass so that it does not mix with the previous layer. It also prevents two liquids that are close in density from not mixing.

Here is a table of specific densities of the most common spirits.

This table will help you make perfect layered cocktails!

Southern Comfort 0.97
Tuaca 0.98
Water 1
Green Chartreuse 1.01
Cointreau 1.04
Benedictine 1.04
Cognac 1.04
Cherry liqueur 1.04
Kummel 1.04
Peach liqueur 1.04
Peppermint schnapps 1.04
Sloe gin 1.04
Rock and Rye 1.05
Midori Melon Liqueur 1.05
Yellow Chartreuse 1.06
Peach brandy 1.06
Cherry brandy 1.06
Blackberry brandy 1.06
Apricot brandy 1.06
Campari 1.06
Curaçao orange liqueur 1.08
Drambuie 1.08
Frangelico 1.08
Triple sec 1.09
Tia Maria 1.09
Apricot liqueur 1.09
Blackberry Liqueur 1.01
Amaretto 1.01
Galliano 1.11
Blue Curaçao Liqueur 1.11
Spearmint cream 1.12
Strawberry liqueur 1.12
White mint cream 1.12
Parfait Amour 1.13
Coffee liqueur 1.13
White Crème de Cacao 1.14
Cream of Cacao 1.14
Cream of Banana 1.14
Cream of Almond 1.16
Cream of Nucleus 1.65
Anisette 1.75
Blackcurrant Cream 1.18
Grenadine 1.18