Mixing Annex – Key to Spirit Specific Gravity

August 16, 2010

Layering spirits is one of the original drink preparation techniques, most popular throughout Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But many say it was elevated to artistry in New Orleans during the late 19th century. Known as pousse-cafes, bartenders created eye-catching beverages by floating level upon level of liquor, liqueur, and syrup.

This is the result of the different specific gravities of various liqueurs and syrups in the drink, not unlike oil and water. As a general rule, the higher the alcohol content, the lower the weight of the liquid.

Regardless of the recipe, instructions or whatever liquids it calls for, experiment with all liqueurs involved before inviting people over. Different brands of the same liqueur can vary.

Ingredients are poured into the glass one at a time in the order listed, heaviest gravity first followed by lighter ones. Keep layers from blending by gently pouring spirits over the back of a bar spoon. For narrower glassware use a maraschino cherry.

If you want a large number of layers, start with dense alcohol-free syrups like grenadine or coffee flavoring, and finish with sweet cream. Be careful not to touch the inside of the glass as you pour. This may cause unattractive smudges between ingredients of similar densities ruining the clear delineation that makes pousse-cafes so memorable.

For crisp layers, choose liquids with substantially different specific gravities.

Crème de Banana — Golden yellow
Crème de Cassis — Currant red

Anisette — Clear

White Crème de Menthe — Clear
Grenadine — Deep orange-red
Green Crème de Menthe — Bright green

Dark Crème de Cacao — Brown
Goldwasser — Clear
Kahlua — Dark brown
White Crème de Menthe — clear

Coffee liqueur — Deep brown
Maraschino liqueur — Clear
White Crème de Cacao — Clear

Parfait d’Amour — Deep purple

Cherry liqueur — Dark red
Crème de Noyaux — Bright red
Green Crème de Menthe — Brilliant green
Strawberry liqueur — Pink red

Blue Curacao — Brilliant blue
Galliano — Golden yellow

Amaretto — Light brown
Blackberry liqueur — Dark red
Orange Curacao — Bright orange

Apricot liqueur — Amber
Cranberry liqueur — Deep red
Strawberry liqueur — Pink red
Tia maria — Brown
Triple sec — Clear

Drambuie — Deep red amber
Frangelico — Deep brown
Sambuca — Clear or black

Apricot brandy — Amber
Blackberry brandy — Burgundy
Campari — Bright red

Cherry brandy — Burgundy
Peach brandy — Orange amber
Yellow Chartreuse — Bright yellow

Midori melon liqueur — Brilliant green
Kümmel — Clear
Peach liqueur — Orange amber
Peach Schnapps — Clear
Rock and Rye — Amber

Sloe gin — Garnet
B & B — Amber
Brandy — Shades of amber
Cointreau — Clear
Peppermint schnapps — Clear
Sloe gin — Garnet

Green Chartreuse — Green

Water — Clear

Tuaca — Amber

Southern Comfort — Orange amber

Kirsch — Clear

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