Here’s how to make the B 52 cocktail, aka B52 shot! Layered Kahlua, Irish cream, and Grand Marnier make the perfect sip.

B 52 cocktail

Here’s a layered cocktail that’s mighty tasty: the B 52 cocktail! Yes, the B52 shot might be a little…pedestrian, some might say. But the pairing of Kahlua coffee liqueur, sweet Irish cream, and orange liqueur is close to perfection. The combination is so classy, we’ve recreated it here as a slow sipping after dinner drink in a stemmed cocktail glass. You can drink it either way, but we prefer enjoying it rather than downing it as a shot. Here’s a little more about this classic drink and both ways to make it!

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B 52 cocktail ingredients (aka B52 shot)

The B 52 cocktail is a layered shot comprised of coffee liqueur (usually Kahlua), Irish cream (usually Baileys) and orange liqueur (usually Grand Marnier). The most popular origin story for the drink is that it was invented in 1977 by Peter Fich at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada, who named it after the band The B-52s. There are several other competing stories, which is true with lots of other classic cocktails: everyone wants a claim!

The B52 shot then layers equal parts of these ingredients, which each float in separate layers due to their density:

  • Coffee liqueur (Kahlua, Tia Maria, or other)
  • Irish cream (Baileys or other)
  • Orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec)

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This classic pairing of coffee, cream and orange became an instant hit, and it’s spawned all sorts of variations, including a flaming B52 shot. (We won’t cover that once here, since we broke a glass making flaming Spanish coffee…but that’s a story for another day!)

B52 shot

How to make the layers in a B52 shot

How do you get those beautiful layers of separation in a B52 shot? Pour the liquor over the back of spoon! Here’s how it works:

  • Pour in the Kahlua first.
  • Gently pour in the Irish cream over the back of a spoon. Pouring it over a spoon slows it down, allowing it to float on top of the Kahlua.
  • Gently pour the Grand Marnier over the back of a spoon. This one will look a little less defined, especially if you’re making it in a cocktail glass. Speaking of that…

Or, sip it as a B 52 cocktail!

The best way to make a B 52 cocktail? In a cocktail glass. Honestly, as cocktail connoisseurs and homemade mixology experts, we’re not really B52 shot people. Shots are designed to ingest a lot of alcohol in seconds: whereas we’re all about slowing down and enjoying the art of homemade cocktails.

So, we’re all about a B 52 cocktail: make it up and slow sip on it in a cocktail glass! Here’s what to know about the differences:

  • Use 1 ounce of each ingredient (instead of ½ ounce for the shot).
  • The separation of the orange liqueur layer will not be as definitive in a cocktail glass. Because it’s larger, the layer looks muddier. That’s ok!
  • Stir it up before sipping! If you don’t, you’ll get a big gulp of Grand Marnier on first sip. You’ll want to stir the flavors so they meld together.

Use any coffee liqueur, like Kahlua

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You can use any type of coffee liqueur for a B 52 cocktail. The most popular type that you might already have on hand for the B52 shot is Kahlua. Here’s more about it and a few other alternatives:

  • Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that’s made in Mexico: it’s made with rum, sugar and coffee (no dairy!). It does have some caffeine, but only about 25% as much as the same volume of coffee.
  • How much does Kahlua cost? It’s relatively inexpensive: it costs about $15 to $20 for a large 750 ml bottle.
  • What are substitutes? Try other types of coffee liqueur, like Tia Maria or Sheridan’s.
  • What other cocktails use Kahlua? There are so many other great Kahlua drinks: try the classic White Russian or Black Russian, a frosty Bushwacker, or an Espresso Martini.
B52 Shot

For the orange liqueur: Grand Marnier is best, Cointreau is a substitute

There are lots of different types of orange liqueur, and the differences can be a little confusing. Here’s a breakdown of what’s best to use in a B52 shot, and what are some good alternatives:

  • Grand Marnier is classic: it’s the most high end of all orange liqueurs. It’s a mixture of Triple Sec and Cognac and has a sophisticated, developed flavor, with notes of vanilla and oak.
  • Cointreau is another great option: it’s a clear, orange-flavored liqueur with a lightly sweet, citrus perfume flavor. You can also use it to make a classic Margarita.
  • Triple Sec is any clear dry orange-flavored liqueur. In most liquor stores, bottles labeled Triple Sec are lower in quality and more affordable than Cointreau. It has a straightforward orange flavor: it’s very citrusy, almost like an orange-infused vodka.

When to serve a B 52 cocktail or shot

A B 52 cocktail is a fantastic after dinner drink, but it works anytime. Serve it as a:

  • After dinner drink
  • Happy hour drink
  • Signature drink
  • Girls or guys night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink


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