The Classic New Orleans Cocktail That's Been On Menus Since 1880

Among many, many other things, New Orleans is known for cranking out some great cocktails. From the classic Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz to the Creole Bloody Mary and the infamous Hurricane, so many signature drinks that are popular today — in New Orleans and beyond — have origin stories that began in the Crescent City.

One of those cocktails is Café Brulot Diabolique, and it comes with a fancy name, a long history, and an open flame. Literally translated to ​"devilishly burned coffee," this after-dinner drink is extra in all the best ways. When you order a Café Brulot Diabolique, you don't just get a cocktail — you get a show.

If you've never heard of Café Brulot Diabolique before, this quintessential New Orleans coffee cocktail is certainly worth getting familiar with, because you know a drink is good when it's been around for over 130 years. Let's dive into everything there is to know about this flaming concoction.

The origin story of the Café Brulot Diabolique

Antoine's is one of New Orleans's oldest and most renowned French-Creole fine dining restaurants; it's taken up residence in the French Quarter since 1840. The iconic establishment is famous for being the birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller — but it's also the birthplace of the Café Brulot Diabolique.

About forty or so years after the restaurant opened, its founder's son, a man named Jules Alciatore, was inspired to invent this crazy caffeinated cocktail. What gave him the idea to make something called "devilishly burned coffee"? Back in Alciatore's day, the French used to do something strangely delicious to their coffee: they would dunk a sugar cube in Cognac, light it on fire, and then drop it into their cup of joe.

The cocktail that Alciatore invented has a similar concept that involves coffee, sugar, and open flame — just add alcohol, a few more ingredients, and a dramatic tableside presentation. Café Brulot Diabolique was first added to the menu at Antoine's in the late 1880s, and you'll still find it there, along with a couple of other popular New Orleans fine dining spots like Arnaud's and Galatoire's.

How to concoct a Café Brulot Diabolique

Café Brulot Diabolique is essentially a spiked, spiced coffee. It's a hot, bold, rich drink that's usually enjoyed after dinner (or on special occasions) and consumed in small demitasse cups, similar to how you'd sip on an espresso or a Turkish coffee.

The base of the drink is strong black coffee and brandy, usually at an 8:1 ratio (or one ounce of brandy per cup of coffee). The ingredients that add more warmth, flavor, and a hint of sweetness: sugar, lemon or orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. While the ingredients themselves seem fairly ordinary, this is no ordinary cocktail; the way all of the different parts come together is a true spectacle.

Performed tableside and usually in a large batch quantity, the brandy is mixed with the cinnamon, cloves, citrus peel, and sugar in a special fire-proof silver bowl and then lit on fire with a match. The waiter dips a long ladle in and ignites that, too, continuing to stir the mixture as the flames become more dramatic. For the finale to this fiery show, the hot coffee is added into the bowl while everything is still flaming — usually poured over a long spiraled orange or lemon peel to create one last impressive ribbon of fire.