Striped Cocktails Are Having A Layered Moment

Sometimes the art of mixology is not actually about mixing liquids but about keeping them apart. The latest cocktail trend involves drinks with colorful layers rather than a uniform hue — think ombré Tequila Sunrises and the red, white, and blue of a Fourth of July slushy, only classier. Sure, there are some layered classics, but the trendiest bars are taking the concept to the next level.

Bars far and wide are hopping on the train of boldly striped cocktails, creating Instagram-worthy drinks that look as good as they taste. The trend fits perfectly into the tacky-campy-chic menu and aesthetic of New York's TikTok-viral Italian restaurant, Bad Roman, which serves a three-layered drink called the Bad Ombré. A layered drink can also enhance the theme of a restaurant, as the classic DC Belgian restaurant The Sovereign highlights with the Jalisco to Brussels Non-Stop— an electric blue mix of tequila and Curaçao with a vibrant band of cherry beer floating on top.

While the technique might have been limited to a few select types of liquor in the past, bartenders are now layering all sorts of ingredients. The Black Bolt at the Clover Club in Brooklyn, for example, features a bottom layer of lemon juice that stands out and complements a sweet pineapple-maple syrup rather than blending into the background.

Creating a layered drink involves science and technique

Crafting the perfect cocktail is a delicate dance of temperature, flavor, and pairing. Creating a dazzling layered cocktail involves all of these elements, as well as a mastery of floats and sinks — the key to creating stunning stripes and ombré-effects in your drink. As you probably guessed, a float is a layer of liquid that sits on top of a drink, while a sink is a denser liquid that sinks to the bottom. The floating technique usually involves pouring the liquid over an upside-down spoon, which spreads it over the surface so it floats. However, bartenders can choose how to layer, sink, and float their drinks in a myriad of ways to create the desired effect.

More than just looking cool, floats and sinks are important flavor components too. Just like a float of vanilla ice cream on root beer or a layer of sweet cream on your cold brew complement the flavors beneath, a float of wine on your drink can add complexity to a normally humdrum cocktail. If you want to make some easy layered cocktails at home, look no further than retro classics like the B-52, with its orangey kick of Grand Marnier and irresistible float of Irish cream. Or, if you're not a drinker, a wide array of non-alcoholic layered drinks, like a virgin rainbow paradise, are fun possibilities.