Specific Gravity Chart for Layering Drinks and Shots

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

Pousse Cafe
Liquids can be layered in shots and cocktails if you know their specific gravity. Brian Hagiwara / Photolibrary / Getty Images

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.

IngredientSpecific GravityColorNotes
Plymouth Gin0.94Clear82.4 proof (higher proof is lighter).
Tequila0.94Clear or AmberSilver tequilas are slightly lighter than gold tequilas because of the additives in the gold style.
Whiskey0.94AmberIncludes most whiskies, but will vary based on brand and style.
Southern Comfort0.97Pale orange 
Vodka0.97ClearWill vary by brand, but this is typical.
Tuaca0.98Amber 
Green Chartreuse1.01Green 
Jagermeister1.01Dark brown 
Grand Marnier1.03Pale orangeLighter than most orange liqueurs.
Brandy1.04Amber 
Cinnamon Schnapps1.04ClearMay vary by brand.
Cherry Liqueur1.04RedDoes not include maraschino (see below).
Cointreau1.04ClearConsiderably lighter than other triple secs. The higher proof makes a big difference.
Irish Mist1.04Light amber 
Kummel1.04Clear 
Peach Liqueur1.04Dark amberMay vary by brand.
Peppermint Schnapps1.04Clear90+ proof is lighter (approx. 1.02)
30 proof is heavier (approx. 1.07)
Sloe Gin1.04Dark redMay vary by brand. 
Homemade sloe gin will vary as well.
Amarula1.05Creamy light brown 
Baileys Irish Cream1.05Creamy light brownOther Irish creams may vary.
Midori Melon Liqueur1.05Light greenOther melon liqueurs may vary.
Marie Brizard Watermelon is the same, but red in color.
Rock and Rye1.05AmberVaries. Hiram Walker is 1.09.
Homemade rock & rye will vary greatly.
Campari1.06Bright red 
Fruit Brandy1.06VariesIncludes most apricot (amber), blackberry (dark purple, cherry (dark red), and peach (amber) brandies.
Limoncello1.06Pale yellowWill vary greatly by brand, some may be considerably heavier.
Peach Schnapps1.06Pale orangeHigher proof peach schnapps (90+) will be lighter (approx. 1.04) than this, which is standard for a 30-proof. 
Yellow Chartreuse1.06Yellow 
Benedictine1.07Pale amberB&B is 1.02.
Hpnotiq1.07Bright blue 
Amaretto Di Saronno1.08Dark amberOther amarettos will vary and are heavier. Typically around 1.11
Drambuie1.08Golden amber 
Frangelico1.08Pale amber 
Orange Curacao1.08OrangeMay vary by brand.
Root Beer Schnapps1.08BrownWill vary by brand, this is typical for 30-proof. Higher proof schnapps will be lighter.
Apricot Liqueur1.09Bright amberMay vary by brand.
Sambuca1.09ClearMay vary by brand.
Sambuca comes in many colors, including black green, red, gold and white.
Tia Maria1.09BrownLighter than most coffee liqueurs, especially Kahlua (see below).
Triple Sec1.09ClearMay vary by brand.
Blackberry Liqueur1.10Dark purpleMay vary by brand.
Blue Curacao1.10BlueMay vary by brand.
Maraschino Liqueur1.10ClearMay vary by brand.
Banana Liqueur1.12YellowMay vary by brand.
Most are between this and crème de banane (see below).
Galliano1.12Golden yellow 
Green Crème de Menthe1.12GreenMay vary by brand.
White Crème de Menthe1.12ClearMay vary by brand.
Strawberry Liqueur1.12Bright redMay vary by brand.
Chambord1.13Dark red 
Parfait Amour1.13Violet 
Coffee Liqueur1.14BrownMost brands though Kahlua is heavier (see below).
Dark Crème de Cacao1.14BrownMay vary by brand.
White Crème de Cacao1.14ClearMay vary by brand.
Kahlua1.16Dark brown 
Crème de Almond1.16AmberMay vary by brand.
Crème de Noyaux1.16Bright redMay vary by brand.
Anisette1.17ClearMay vary by brand.
Crème de Banane1.18Bright yellowMay vary by brand.
Crème de Cassis1.18Dark purpleMay vary by brand.
Grenadine1.18Bright redHomemade grenadines may vary.
Butterscotch Schnapps1.22GoldenMay 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.