How to Pour a Pousse-café

Pousse-café sounds horribly exotic. In truth, it’s nothing more than a layered drink, and it’s quite easy to accomplish. The results, when done well, are amazing to look at. To accomplish this, it requires a bit of knowledge of science, and a bit of skill.

First, the knowledge – one of the properties of liquids includes something known as a specific gravity. As Wikipedia puts it “Specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance.” For liquids, the reference substance is water. The higher the specific gravity of a liquid, the heavier it is. This property allows for different liquids to appear as if separate from one another.

The spirits world is filled with a tremendous variation from alcohol to alcohol. Typically speaking, the more sugar and less alcohol, the higher the specific gravity. The lower the sugar and higher the alcohol, the smaller the density. So, in selecting your alcohols, you would want a variation between which alcohols you picked.

So Step 1? Pick your alcohols that you wish to use in your drink.

Step 2 – Pour your drinks from heaviest to lightest. The trick is to pour slowly off of the back of a teaspoon (or other similar surface that gains you some measure of control), onto either the side of the glass, or just above the previous layer. This does take some skill, but it’s not a difficult one to master. When I’ve tried it, it took me two attempts to get it right. I also found using a Martini glass helped immensely.

Here’s the specific gravity of some of the more popular liquors out there, along with their flavors and colors:

Specific Gravity 1.18
Crème de banane (banana): Gold
Crème de cassis (black currant): Blood Red

Specific Gravity 1.17
Anisette (licorice): Clear

Specific Gravity 1.16
Crème de menthe – colored – (mint): Green
Grenadine (pomegranate): Orange-red

Specific Gravity 1.15
Crème de cacao – colored – (chocolate): Brown
Crème de menthe – uncolored – (mint): Clear
Kahlúa (coffee): Dark Brown

Specific Gravity 1.14
Crème de cacao – uncolored – (chocolate): Clear
Maraschino (cherry): Clear

Specific Gravity 1.13
Parfait d’armour (Rose/Orange/Vanilla): Violet

Specific Gravity 1.12
Cherry Liqueur (cherry): Dark Red
Crème de noyaux (almond): Bright Red
Strawberry Liqueur (strawberry): Pink/Red

Specific Gravity 1.11
Blue Curaçao (orange): Blue
Gallioano (vanilla-orange): Amber

Specific Gravity 1.10
Amaretto (almond): Amber
Blackberry Liqueur (blackberry): Dark Red
orange Curaçao (orange): Orange

Specific Gravity 1.09
Apricot Liqueur (apricot): Orange
Cranberry Liqueur (cranberry): Red
Tia Maria (coffee-rum): Brown
Triple Sec (orange): Clear

Specific Gravity 1.08
Drambuie (whisky/honey): Reddish Amber
Frangelico (hazelnut): Brown
Sambuca (licorice): Clear

Specific Gravity 1.07
Apricot Brandy (apricot): Amber
Blackberry Brandy (blackberry): Purple-Red
Campari (herbal/bitters): Bright Red

Specific Gravity 1.06
Cherry Brandy (cherry): Purple-Red
Peach Brandy (Peach): Yellow-Orange
Yellow Chartreuse (herbal): Bright Yellow

Specific Gravity 1.05
Midori (melon): Green
Kümmel (sweet Caraway, cumin, fennel): Clear
Peach Schnapps (peach): Clear

Specific Gravity 1.04
Sloe Gin (plum/sloe): Purple-Red
Brandy (Brandy): Amber
Cointreau (orange peel): Clear
Peppermint Schnapps (peppermint): Clear

Specific Gravity 1.01
Green Chartreuse (herbal): Green

Specific Gravity 1.00
Water

Specific Gravity 0.98
Tuaca (brandy-vanilla): Amber

Specific Gravity 0.97
Southern Comfort (bourbon-fruit): Amber-Orange

Specific Gravity 0.94
Kirsch (cherry): clear

(PHOTO CREDIT: From RNAlexander via the Creative Commons license)


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