To get attention and entertain, light the damn thing on fire

Breaking Down the Blue Blazer, a drink famous not for its ingredients, but how it’s made.

To get attention and entertain, light the damn thing on fire

In Breaking Down, I look at what makes classic drinks so delicious and, well, classic.

To that end, our sponsor for this series, Spirits Platform, are offering training across the country on classic cocktails, spirits and more — contact your state’s ambassador (details below) to learn more.

Attention — and the grabbing thereof — is valuable thing these days. We’re only awake for so long each day, right? From the moment you wake up and look at your phone and check your email and Instagram and the muted messages from overnight and clear all the push notifications, by the time you make it to the shower you’ve already withstood a barrage of demands on your attention. Everyone and everything wants your attention right now.

Why? It’s simple supply and demand. Many things want your attention — I want your attention — and you’ve only got so many hours in the day. So we bombard you with demands. More, more, more.

What’s the role for a bar in this world of everything always being on? I think there are two types of bars: those in which you can escape all demands on your attention, where you can actually chill the fuck out and get away from it all, and those bars which entertain and distract you from all other demands on your time, the bar as performance.

Which one is yours? It’s neither better nor worse to be one or the other, they’re just different.

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For example, if I go to a place like Huelo in Newtown, I’m there to relax and check out a little while. It suits that — sipping a cocktail with a friend while the busyness of King street just goes on by.

But I don’t think of Maybe Sammy as one of those places I go to take a breath and relax. I go there to be transported into the Maybe Sammy show, drink delicious drinks, be surprised, and most importantly, to laugh and have a good time. Laughing is good. More, please.

That place — more specifically, the people who make that place, the bartenders and the guests — makes me pay attention, it captivates.

It’s an art as old bartending, or at least as old as the days of Jerry Thomas. For those of you new here, he’s the guy who wrote one of the first bar books, How To Mix Drinks in 1862, and was something of a flair bartender, as his signature drink — an etching of making it adorned the front of his book — shows.

That drink is the Blue Blazer, and the Blue Blazer is about one thing and one thing only: attention. It’s as look-at-me as you get, flair bartending before flair was a thing. Thomas would pour the concoction between two cups, but here’s the thing: it was on fire. Long, flowing ribbons of burning blue fire escaping one cup and being caught in another, the bartender throwing back and forth and back again.

Now, it’s not to say that the process is all show. As Spirits Platform brand ambassador Josh Varna explains in the video here, that back and forth is actually doing something to the drink.

“It’s not all showboating,” he says. “What we’re doing here, the alcohol is on fire, so it is starting to burn off a lot of the ABV. By throwing them back and forth you’re actually aerating [the drink], creating a stronger fire experience.” The heat increases because the mixture is getting more oxygen into it by throwing it back and forth.

Josh likens the technique to throwing, like you do with a Bloody Mary: the drink is poured between two tins from height, aerating the drink while mixing the ingredients together. The same process applies when making the Blue Blazer.

“We’re trying to get a more rounded cocktail, more flavoursome cocktail,” says Josh.

For the drink to work — keeping in mind it is combined with water through the process — a spirit with a higher alcohol bottling strength will always catch light easier than a spirit with a lower ABV. That’s why Josh chose the Bruichladdich Classic Laddie for this recipe — the dram lands at 50 percent ABV.


Blue Blazer recipe



  1. Pre-heat your handled pots with a brûlée iron or similar.
  2. Add all ingredients to one of the pre-heated pots, and set alight.
  3. Pour between pots.
  4. Extinguish the flame by placing the empty pot over the flaming pot.
  5. Pour into a handled or double-walled glass or mug. Garnish with a twist.

Want to learn more?

This primer was made possible by support from Spirits Platform’s Spirits Academy. Their team of ambassadors conduct trainings around the country, sharing their in-depth knowledge of spirits, cocktails, and their big portfolio of products.

Get in touch with your Spirits Platform ambassador for your state to find out more.

National Ambassador Manager: Mark Hickey — email him on
NSW, ACT: Josh Varna — email him on
QLD, NT: Jack Creighton — email him on
VIC, TAS: Max Borrowman — email him on

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