Playing with Fire

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I don't care how many times I see it, the trick the waiters at Galatoire's do with flaming liquor, orange peels and coffee when making café Brulot always proves captivating.

This is no ordinary after-dinner drink – or, as is probably more often the case these days at Galatoire's, an after-lunch drink. It comes with specialized equipment, it comes flaming in portions large enough for at least several servings and it comes with a choreographed tableside preparation sure to temporarily supercede conversation not only at your table but usually at all those within earshot.

In French, brûlot can mean either “highly seasoned” or “incendiary,” both of which prove apt for this singular post-prandial. Most preparations call for an orange peel cut precisely as one long, intact spiral; a lemon peel cut into strips; sugar, cloves and cinnamon; cognac or brandy and hot, strong black coffee. Most importantly, the drink requires fire.

An adept waiter will set the concoction alight and usually play with it for a bit, tracing little flaming trails over the tablecloth that burn out quickly and conveniently cause no evident damage. It's a parlor trick, I know, but when the end result is boozy coffee every step along the way seems a little more interesting.

- Ian McNulty

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