For a dessert I recently made, I intended to flame, or burn some alcohol on a quinel of ice cream. Unfortunately, it would not light. I've searched the web a bit since and have come to think it was to cold for the alcohol to evaporate and so burn (bad explanation, I know). Is this why? How would I go about achieving this, ideally with no chemicals as I have a kitchen not a lab.

Thanks in advance!


For a substance to burn, it must first reach its ignition point. For it to keep burning, it must reach its fire point. The ignition point of a 40% ABV liquid such as brandy is 26ºC/79ºF, and the fire point is approximately 10ºC higher than that.

What this means in practical terms is that you need to heat the alcohol a little first before you add it to the ice cream. The simplest way to do this is to put the alcohol in a ladle and heat it over the hob - it won't need much as 36ºC is not a great deal over room temperature. Then light it carefully with a long match, and pour it around your ice cream - if you've got it warm enough it should keep burning until the alcohol is consumed.

  • Whoa, 80 proof liquor would catch on fire if you left it outside in a Texas summer? – Cascabel Feb 27 '12 at 17:49
  • @elendilthetall Just the answer I was looking for +1 – Sebiddychef Feb 27 '12 at 18:07
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    @jefromi No, it wouldn't - unless you put a match to it. The ignition temperature is the temperature required for a substance to ignite when exposed to a flame. For a substance to spontaneously ignite (i.e. without a flame) it needs to reach the autoignition point: for ethanol that's 365ºC/689ºF - even Texas summers aren't that hot :) – ElendilTheTall Feb 27 '12 at 19:46
  • Oh, okay, I inferred badly from the mention of both ignition and fire point. Never mind! – Cascabel Feb 27 '12 at 19:58

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