History of the B52

A well-made B52 shot is certainly a work of art. Made up of a beautifully layered mix of Baileys’, triple sec and coffee liqueur, this is a shot that takes patience and precision in order to achieve perfection. It might seem like quite a modern style of shot, particularly when considering the ingredients used, but it is believed to have been invented in the 70’s. Who or what could have inspired such a classic shooter?

Who Created the B52?

The most popular story of the B52 shot leads us back to the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada. Peter Fich, head bartender in 1977, was a fan of the band, The B-52s, and so he named the drink in homage to their music. Interestingly, the band got their name from a hairstyle in which the hair was swept all up on top of the head in order to resemble a beehive (think Marge Simpson). Others thought the hairdo looked like an old B52 Stratofortress bomber.

It is the association with the plane which has cast doubts on this story. Some shot enthusiasts believe that the B52 was actually first poured in the 1960’s, in Alice’s Restaurant in Malibu, and that the name is a direct reference to the fighter jet. The make-up of the drink, with the orange layer at the top, correlates with this theory, as many believe it is supposed to represent the flames of a downed plane.

The discrepancy in stories has also led to some confusion over the name. There are some bartenders that believe you should never, under any circumstances, ask for a B52 Bomber, since this is not the correct name of the shot and has no link to the original drink. There are others that insist the Bomber suffix is a necessary part of the name.

Variations of the B52

As you might expect, popular variations of the B52 shot have rather uninspiring names. In order, perhaps you’d like to try a B51, which substitutes Triple Sec for Frangelico. A B53 removes the Bailey’s and adds Sambuca. A few bartenders got a little more creative with their variation names, so you can also choose from the B52 Gunslip, a blend of absinthe, Bailey’s and coffee liqueur, or the B52 in the Desert, which prefers tequila over the Irish Cream.

Regardless of your variation of choice, all three ingredients should be well layered, usually requiring the drinks to be poured over the back of a spoon for neat, even lines. Not only does this make for an impressive display to the consumer, but it also allows the flavours to shine, creating a more delicious beverage that you’ll want to sip rather than shoot.