The art of the layared cocktail

The layered cocktail is an art form relegated only to the most advanced mixologists. The two-tone visual effect of these drinks is not only stunning, but the difficulty of layering the drinks properly makes it well appreciated by those who drink it.

Princeton Cocktail

princeton cocktailFamed bartender George Kappeler first invented the Princeton Cocktail in the late 19th century. Kappeler was well known for creating other drinks named after Ivy League universities at the Holland House bar in New York. The Princeton Cocktail is made with port, giving it a deep and heavy flavor and an elegant appearance.


Two ounces Old Tom gin (or Plymouth gin plus 1/2 teaspoon simple syrup)
3/4 ounce ruby or tawny port (preferably chilled)
Two dashes of bitters (lemon or orage)

How to layer a Princeton Cocktail:


Mix the gin and bitters (as well as simple syrup if you are using Plymouth gin) and fill with ice. Stir for 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass.
2. Pour port along the inside of the cocktail glass slowly and with a steady hand, ensuring it settles at the bottom of the drink.
3. You can garnish with a lemon or orange peel, but make sure not to drop it in, as this will ruin the two-tone effect.

PousseCafePousse café

For a more advanced layered drink, try the oft-forgotten but always-appreciated Pousse café. This after-dinner cocktail is usually used with coffee as a base in order to aid digestion. Pousse cafés are difficult to execute perfectly because there are many slight variances that can ruin the drink: too many ingredients will flatten the drink, building the drink wrong will ruin the appearance, or choosing the wrong ingredients will cause a bad tasting drink. However, if you understand how the layering effect happens you are well on your way to creating a perfect Pousse café. Here’s a guide to help you through the process.

How to layer a Pousse café:

1. Always layer the heaviest liquid first and build to the lightest. Grenadines and crèmes tend to be heaviest, while pure spirits such as rum, vodka, brandy or gin, are lightest.
2. Pour one ounce of your base liquor (the heaviest liquor) into the glass and wait for it to settle. For your base, suggested liqueuers are those that you often find on after-drink menus: grenadine, crème de cassis, Chartreuse, or Grand Marnier; port; cognac; etc.
3. Touch a bar spoon to the side with the back of the spoon facing up.
4. Pour each subsequent liquor one by one over the spoon, making sure to pour slowly so the liquid has time to settle lightly over the top of the ingredient below it.
5. If you want to get extremely fancy and are a Pousse café expert, you can top your drink with an overproof rum and light it on fire, but only attempt this after you have gotten the original recipe down extremely well.