Porno for Cocktail Pyros: S.F.'s Best Flaming Drinks

The Dapper Diner
Blue Blazer at Spruce is def a conversation starter.
While Fernet still reigns supreme in San Francisco bars, shots of the sugary sweet, artificially flavored cinnamon whiskey, Fireball, have seen a rise in consumption, both in S.F. and around the US. However, to paraphrase Steven Liles of Smuggler's Cove, if people were smart, the real fireballs they would be asking for would be in the form of a cocktail that's actually on fire. He's 100 percent right. Not only will this lead you down the road of getting a great-tasting cocktail, but in most cases, you get the added bonus of a pre-drink spectacle. Just make sure not to stand too close to the bar if you happen to be made of straw when they're getting made.

The Dapper Diner
The Kumquat-Coconut at 1760: small on show, big on flavor.
Kumquat-Coconut at 1760 ($13)
While bar man Christopher Longoria's drink won't give you all the razzle-dazzle of the other drinks on this list, it definitely packs a flavor punch. The mild tartness from the kumquat is a great foil to the sweetness and richness of the coconut. The proof content of the drink is raised with the addition of Disaronno, which also adds nuttiness, and a woody-tasting anejo. The toasted cinnamon gently sprinkled over a flame into the drink provides a little spice to the first few sips. It would be a disservice to consume this quickly, because slow sips and stirs will help being out the nuances.
Flavor: 8
Flame Factor: 2

The Dapper Diner
Slow burn: The Gudaitis at Bergerac.
Gudaitis Swizzle at Bergerac ($12)
Named after one of the owners of the new SoMa hotspot, this off-the-menu cocktail created by Yael Vengroff, is a nod to the bar's rock and roll inspiration. And much like that rocker chick every high school had, this drink is tall, boozy, and will burn you if you get too close or at least melt your straw. With two ounces of Bowmore whiskey, it's a potent number, but the mint, sugar, and lime round out the drink's flavor, while a little Campari adds the right amount of bitterness and a splash of color. Since no rock and roll show is complete without a little pyrotechnics, the drink gets garnished with a flaming lime shell, but don't let it burn for too long or else you might get a Spare the Air Day ticket.
Flavor: 7
Flame Factor: 4

The Dapper Diner
Spanish Coffee is always a hit at Absinthe.
Spanish Coffee at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar ($13)
If there were ever a cocktail that demonstrated how "going viral" works, this would be the one. Sit at the bar on a busy weekend evening at this Hayes Valley brasserie, and you will likely see no less than a dozen of these drinks being made. While it's not on the menu, once someone orders it, a wave of them gets made soon after as people notice the orange flash of sparks from the ground cinnamon, a dazzling byproduct of its creation. Forged by the flames and heat of ignited 151-proof rum, the glass' sugared rim gets caramelizes providing a dark sweetness to the cocktail made with coffee, brandy, and Kahlua. This is a drink Hephaestus would make if Mt. Olympus had a craft cocktail bar.
Flavor: 5
Flame Factor: 6

The Dapper Diner
The Hot Blooded at Jaspers: available only until the end of Jan.
Hot Blooded at Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen ($10)
Steal the "Foreigner Belt" from the Mooninites and head down to Jasper's to try Kevin Diedrich's improved take on a Spanish Coffee, and be urgent about it since you only have until the end of January to get it, since that's when the spot comes under new management and the current cocktail program will become as cold as ice. Like a traditional Spanish Coffee, Diedrich uses 151-proof rum, a housemade coffee liqueur (or Kahlua if it's not available), and coffee to provide the boozy backbone and heat to toast the sugar-cinnamon rim. Unlike a traditional Spanish Coffee, Diedrich adds in Nocino, a green walnut liqueur, to provide another layer of flavor. The fire show when making this version isn't as subdued as the one at Absinthe. This is one cocktail you could drink until the end of time, as long as you pace yourself to avoid getting double vision.
Flavor: 6
Flame Factor: 7

The Dapper Diner
The Blue Blazer, a historic S.F. drink.
Blue Blazer at Spruce/Café des Amis ($30)
Back in the mid-1800s, San Francisco was the home of Jerry Thomas, whom many consider the father of mixology and flair bartending. Supposedly, working out of the El Dorado saloon, which is now the Hilton Hotel on Kearny St., Thomas would create this signature drink, The Blue Blazer. I say supposedly, because Thomas never mentioned working at the El Dorado, with most of his fame coming from his work at the Occidental Hotel, which used to be located on Montgomery St. (between Bush and Sutter Sts.). What is essentially a hot toddy was made all the more impressive since it was mixed between two silver mugs... while on fire. You can get this drink at Spruce on any night, but it is offered at its sister restaurant, Café des Amis, on certain nights depending on who is behind the bar. Made with Glenfarclas 15 year scotch, hot water, honey, and a zest from a lemon peel, the concoction is warm and a bit sweet, making it all too easy to drink on a cold evening. And no, no Owen Hart joke for you.
Flavor: 3
Flame Factor: 8

The Dapper Diner
Smugger's Cove's impressive Top Notch Volcano.
Top Notch Volcano at Smuggler's Cove ($36)
At this tiki drink haven, they suggest two or more people consume this bowl of booze, but if you fancy yourself a top-notch drinker, you could tackle it on your own. Of course, if you do, you only have yourself to blame if you wake up after being Shangahaied, about to be tossed into a volcano as a Waponi sacrifice. The drink is mostly made with the sacrificial blood of pineapples, limes, and passion fruits, but it gets spiked with a healthy dose of reserve rum and Maraschino liqueur, making it perfect for those on a juice cleanse. Thanks to an expert bartender armed with the magic of a cinnamon shaker and an atomizer, when this bowl gets delivered to you, things end up looking more like Ghost Rider rather than the Human Torch.
Flavor: 6
Flame Factor: 9

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