Nothing makes a drink look more attractive and temptingly delicious than when you layer it. Layering drinks is combining combinations of liqueurs which blend together create fresh and vibrant colors or stay seperated to make colurful designs. Indeed, layering drinks is like a bartender's artwork on his beverage canvas and it all comes together with the use of creativity and science.

There are many ways that bartenders choose to layer drinks. But it really all boils down to science. When layering drinks, the mixer must keep the alcohol's density in mind to combine the right liquids. Each alcoholic beverage has its own specific gravity. When learning to layer, a specific gravity chart is very helpful.

Higher density alcohols are said to sink below those that are of lighter densities. Of course there would be times when two ingredients are of the same density level. In this case, the drinks are to be mixed with great precision in order to result in successful layering.

Most of the times, bartenders and drink mixers would use a plastic syringe to be able to get the right amount in the glass and at a slower pace. Experts would tell you that the slower process you try to mix these drinks together, the better the outcome. Even if a syringe is not handy you can also slowly pour the liquor by using the back of your spoon to create a trickle effect instead of a direct pouring of the liquor.


One of the more difficult techniques in bartending is layering or floating liqueurs. Although this seems like a challenge, there is a very simple method that you can use. Each liqueur weighs differently and either floats or sinks when added to another. Most recipes are written with the heaviest liqueurs printed first. If all else fails, experiment and get used to the liqueurs that you most often use.

To pour the liqueurs into the glass, simply use the rounded or back part of a spoon and rest it against the inside of the glass. Slowly pour down the spoon and into the glass. The liqueur should run down the inside of the glass and smoothly layer. This technique takes practise, but can be mastered by anyone. Make sure that the liqueurs are poured in order of their weight, starting with the heaviest first.

You can see some specific gravities of various alcoholshere.  This may help in your quest to create the perfect layered drink.

Layering Tips by John Barrington

  1. If a person doesn't know the specific gravity of liquor or a liqueur, they can read and compare the proofs of the bottles. The proofs can help create the layered drinks. Lower proofs of liqueurs generally mean there is more sugar and that the liqueur is thicker and heavier (e.g. 151 rum can be floated on top to make flaming shooters). Remember, the same type of flavoured liqueurs that are made by different companies can sometimes have different proofs (or a specific gravity), and this conflict with other liqueurs can spoil the layered presentation.

  2. If a person tries to create a shooter and messes up the layers, he can place the shooter in the refrigerator for about an hour and the liqueurs will separate themselves.  (ok, nice idea but who wants to wait an hour for their drink?  Once inside, they all taste the same.)