how to make the B-52 drink…as a shooter or as dessert drink

The B-52  drink (or B52) is a layered cocktail made with a coffee liqueur, an Irish cream liqueur and an orange flavored liqueur.  The ingredients are layered one top of the other such that three distinct colored layers are visible.

This drink is usually made as a shooter in a shot glass. And it is expected to be consumed as a shooter…in one swig. But this can also be made as a dessert cocktail by increasing the amount of the ingredients and using a slightly bigger glass.

It is believed to have been named after the bombers used by the US called B-52 Stratofortress in Vietnam.  Another legend has it that it is named after the popular music band the B-52s.

The B-52 Drink


  • 1 part Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
  • 1 part Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1 part Grand Marnier


  1. Choose either a tall shot glass or a dessert drink glass (such as cordial or snifter) depending on the preferred size of the drink.
  2. Add Kahlua about 1/3 of the way into the glass.
  3. Using the back side of a bar spoon, slowly pour the Irish Cream over the Kahlua so that it layers on top.
  4. Again using the bar spoon, pour the Grand Marnier over the cream so that it layers over the cream.


The above liqueurs provide the best density differential for easy layering. Stick with the original ingredients as much as possible.

  • You could use another coffee liqueur like Tia Maria if Kahlua is not available
  • A good substitute for Grand Marnier in the B-52 drink is the Cointreau which is another orange flavored liqueur.
  • It might take a couple of attempts before you are able to layer the ingredients perfectly, if you are not used to the technique.
  • Sometimes the B-52 drink is shaken and served up as a cocktail, but rarely so and usually depends on your taste.

Variations and Similar drinks

B-52 Full Payload: Two more layers are added on top. The 4th layer is usually Frangelico and 5th layer being Bacardi 151.
B-51: Substitute Grand Mariner with Frangelico for the third layer
B-53: The Irish Cream in the second layer is substituted with Sambuca
B-54: Substitute Grand Marnier with Amaretto which is an almond liqueur
B-55: Absinthe is used as the top layer instead of the Grand Marnier
B-57: Peppermint schnapps is used instead of the Bailey’s Irish Cream