Specific Gravity Chart for Layering Drinks and Shots

Know the Density of Your Liquor To Make the Best Layered Drinks

Irish Flag Shooter recipe

 The Spruce

Do you want to create your own layered shots like the B-52? You will need to know the density of the liquors you want to use and a specific gravity chart can help.

The History of Layered Drinks

Around the turn of the twentieth century, beautiful pousse-cafes were being created all over the world, especially in Europe. People enjoyed these captivating layers of spirits and syrups in their everyday lives.

These layered drinks could get quite extravagant. At times, drinkers would be treated to a pousse glass filled with 10 or more carefully layered ingredients. Sadly, this trend has taken a dive and pousse-cafes are rarely seen today.

The 1960's and 70's brought the technique back to life in the form of colorful layered shooters like the Irish Flag and B-52. These fun, vivid shots remain a hit at parties and they are a fun way to show off your advanced bartending skills.

How to Layer Drinks Using Specific Gravity

The key to creating perfectly layered drinks is to pay attention to how heavy each ingredient is. The weight of each liquid is measured by its specific gravity.

In the drink world, we compare the density of water (with a specific gravity of 1) to the liquid we are measuring to get its specific gravity.

  • For instance, a thick syrup like grenadine is very heavy and has a specific gravity of 1.18. That is why grenadine sinks when added to a Tequila Sunrise.
  • Likewise, most of the base distilled spirits that contain no sugar are lighter than water and have a specific gravity somewhere around 0.95. This allows high proof rums to float on top of drinks like the Flaming Dr. Pepper when we want to light it on fire

In order to create a layered drink, the heavier ingredient needs to be added to the glass first. More liquids are added in the order of their weight with the lightest ingredient on top.

Tip

The best layered drinks are poured over the back of a barspoon to restrict the flow so the ingredients will float.

Specific Gravity Chart for Popular Liquors 

We tend to use general measurements for the specific gravity of various liquors and those are listed in the chart below. This list includes common distilled spirits that are used in layered drinks. They are in order from lightest to heaviest as you work down the list. 

Keep in mind that brands of the same style of liquor may vary in their specific gravity. For instance, most coffee liqueurs are lighter than Kahlua, which is the most popular brand of that flavor.

Ingredient Specific Gravity Color Notes
151 Rum 0.94 Light Amber
Plymouth Gin 0.94 Clear 82.4 proof (higher proof is lighter).
Rum 0.94 Clear or Amber Will vary slightly by brand and style.
Tequila 0.94 Clear or Amber Silver tequilas are slightly lighter than gold tequilas because of the additives in the gold style.
Whiskey 0.94 Amber Includes most whiskies, but will vary based on brand and style.
Spiced Rum 0.96 Amber
Southern Comfort 0.97 Pale orange
Vodka 0.97 Clear Will vary by brand, but this is typical.
Tuaca 0.98 Amber
Green Chartreuse 1.01 Green
Jagermeister 1.01 Dark brown
Grand Marnier 1.03 Pale orange Lighter than most orange liqueurs.
Brandy 1.04 Amber
Cinnamon Schnapps 1.04 Clear May vary by brand.
Cherry Liqueur 1.04 Red Does not include maraschino (see below).
Coconut Rum 1.04 Clear Malibu Coconut Rum, though others may differ slightly.
Cointreau 1.04 Clear Considerably lighter than other triple secs. The higher proof makes a big difference.
Irish Mist 1.04 Light amber
Kummel 1.04 Clear
Peach Liqueur 1.04 Dark amber May vary by brand.
Peppermint Schnapps 1.04 Clear 90+ proof is lighter (approx. 1.02)
30 proof is heavier (approx. 1.07)
Sloe Gin 1.04 Dark red May vary by brand.
Homemade sloe gin will vary as well.
Amarula 1.05 Creamy light brown
Baileys Irish Cream 1.05 Creamy light brown Other Irish creams may vary.
Midori Melon Liqueur 1.05 Light green Other melon liqueurs may vary.
Marie Brizard Watermelon is the same, but red in color.
Rock and Rye 1.05 Amber Varies. Hiram Walker is 1.09.
Homemade rock & rye will vary greatly.
Campari 1.06 Bright red
Fruit Brandy 1.06 Varies Includes most apricot (amber), blackberry (dark purple, cherry (dark red), and peach (amber) brandies.
Limoncello 1.06 Pale yellow Will vary greatly by brand, some may be considerably heavier.
Peach Schnapps 1.06 Pale orange Higher proof peach schnapps (90+) will be lighter (approx. 1.04) than this, which is standard for a 30-proof.
Yellow Chartreuse 1.06 Yellow
Benedictine 1.07 Pale amber B&B is 1.02.
Hpnotiq 1.07 Bright blue
Amaretto Di Saronno 1.08 Dark amber Other amarettos will vary and are heavier. Typically around 1.11
Drambuie 1.08 Golden amber
Frangelico 1.08 Pale amber
Orange Curacao 1.08 Orange May vary by brand.
Root Beer Schnapps 1.08 Brown Will vary by brand, this is typical for 30-proof. Higher proof schnapps will be lighter.
Apricot Liqueur 1.09 Bright amber May vary by brand.
Sambuca 1.09 Clear May vary by brand.
Sambuca comes in many colors, including black green, red, gold and white.
Tia Maria 1.09 Brown Lighter than most coffee liqueurs, especially Kahlua (see below).
Triple Sec 1.09 Clear May vary by brand.
Blackberry Liqueur 1.10 Dark purple May vary by brand.
Blue Curacao 1.10 Blue May vary by brand.
Maraschino Liqueur 1.10 Clear May vary by brand.
Banana Liqueur 1.12 Yellow May vary by brand.
Most are between this and crème de banane (see below).
Galliano 1.12 Golden yellow
Green Crème de Menthe 1.12 Green May vary by brand.
White Crème de Menthe 1.12 Clear May vary by brand.
Strawberry Liqueur 1.12 Bright red May vary by brand.
Chambord 1.13 Dark red
Parfait Amour 1.13 Violet
Coffee Liqueur 1.14 Brown Most brands though Kahlua is heavier (see below).
Dark Crème de Cacao 1.14 Brown May vary by brand.
White Crème de Cacao 1.14 Clear May vary by brand.
Kahlua 1.16 Dark brown
Crème de Almond 1.16 Amber May vary by brand.
Crème de Noyaux 1.16 Bright red May vary by brand.
Anisette 1.17 Clear May vary by brand.
Crème de Banane 1.18 Bright yellow May vary by brand.
Crème de Cassis 1.18 Dark purple May vary by brand.
Grenadine 1.18 Bright red Homemade grenadines may vary.
Butterscotch Schnapps 1.22 Golden May vary by brand.

Tips for Layering Drinks

If you are interested in specifics, the best chart I have found is in Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology book. In it, he lists specific flavors from most of the popular liqueur producers, including Hiram Walker, Marie Brizard and DuBouchett.

Here are a few general tips to get you started:

  • The more sugar a liquor has, the heavier it will be. Syrups and heavy liqueurs are considerably heavier than whiskey, rum and vodka, which contain no sugar additives.
  • The higher the proof, the lighter the liquor is. This is a generalization, but orange liqueurs are a good example. Notice that in the chart, the 80-proof Cointreau and Grand Marnier liqueurs are considerably lighter than the average triple sec or blue curacao. The same can be said for high-proof peppermint and peach schnapps.
  • Choose layers with a big difference between them.  As a rule of thumb, the greater the difference in specific gravities between two layers, the easier it is to keep those layers from mixing into one another.

Use these tips to create your own custom shots and have fun playing with the color and flavor combinations that are available.