Café Brûlot

Dale DeGroff

This “incendiary coffee” was first served at New Orleans’s Antoine’s restaurant in the 1880s; it was inspired by pirate Jean Lafitte’s streetside drink-making theatrics, used to distract his audience while his cohorts picked their pockets. A fiery blend of brandy, kirshwasser eau-de-vie, clove-studded orange peel and coffee, Café Brûlot has remained a New Orleans tableside dessert staple and a favorite of Dale DeGroff, who introduced the the drink while head bartender at New York’s Rainbow Room in the 1990s.



  • 1 bottle VS cognac, preferably Courvoisier
  • 12 ounces cherry brandy, preferably Clear Creek Kirschwasser
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 2 whole, wide orange zests, cut in one piece with very little pith
  • 6 Ceylon cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 1 bottle Bacardi 151
  • 1 liter strong, hot French roast coffee, preferably flavored with chicory, such as Café du Monde (DeGroff recommends combining equal parts of their French Roast Coffee with their Coffee and Chicory blend)
  • 16 ounces Demerara syrup (1:1 sugar:water)

  1. Mix the Cognac, kirshwasser, 12 of the whole cloves, 1 of the orange zest spirals, and the broken cinnamon sticks, and drop them into the café brûlot bowl. Let stand for several hours prior to serving.
  2. Prepare a second long, wide orange zest spiral by studding it with the remaining 8 cloves.
  3. Charge the copper pan under the bowl with no more than one ounce of overproof rum, it is the fuel for cooking the Brûlot mix. Use no more rum than called for and keep the bottle in another area; it is extremely flammable.
  4. Thread one end of the second clove-studded orange zest spiral through the tines of a serving fork and set it aside on a china plate.
  5. Light the fuel under the bowl or the chafing dish to warm the mixture. When the mixture warms up, ladle a small amount and expose it to the open flame below the bowl, and use it to ignite the rest of the mixture in the bowl.
  6. ick up the fork with the studded orange zest and position it over the center of the bowl with the spiral dangling into the mixture. Using the ladle, slowly pour the flaming mixture over the peel. The oil in the peel will provide a nice light show. Do this several times, then pour the coffee slowly into the bowl until the fire is extinguished.
  7. Sweeten the mixture to taste with the warmed demerara sugar syrup. Serve in demitasse cups.