Festive flames: How to light a Christmas pudding

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In my household, as in many others, setting fire to the pudding on Christmas afternoon is a traditional and much-loved way of getting into the Christmas spirit, in a more literal sense than most. The trouble is, the roaring blaze I hope for often turns out as a barely perceptible purple glow.

I know I’m not alone in my disappointment, so can science show us the way? I sought advice from John Holman, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, to find a fail-safe recipe for a Christmas pud that lights up like the star of Bethlehem.

First, says Holman, it’s important that both the pudding and the spirit are hot. The hotter the spirit, the more the alcohol vaporises and burns.

Second, more alcohol means more fuel, so a super-strength spirit should produce a big, long-lasting flame.


Third and finally, other ingredients in the spirit can burn too. For a glow to warm the cockles of the festive heart, says Holman, choose a spirit containing more sugar: that should burn with a homely orange flame.

Do his predictions pan out? Watch the video to find out – and discover our top tipples for a tip-top flaming pud. Merry Christmas!

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