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The socio-cultural history of the Pousse Café. Part 8: Pousse Café

Titelbild Pousse Café.

We looked at the Chasse Café in the last article in this series. Another name was: Pousse Café. We’ll have to look into the old sources for this one too. What is there to report about it?

Let us now turn to the Pousse Café, which, as we have already written, is another name for the Chasse Café. It is etymologically derived from the verb ‘pousser’, which means ‘to push something aside’. [17]

We first found evidence of the Chasse Café in 1772; the Pousse Café also appeared at that time. It is mentioned in 1778: “Even if twenty of the most questionable and violent wines and the strongest liqueurs do not flow into their glasses in great streams, they still have their hot and burning sauces, their spicy stews, their spices, their truffles, their strong wines, their coffee and their pousse café, as one says so beautifully; they always have enough to inflict a dangerous irritation on their stomachs.[15-134]

M. Lascazes de Compayre: Dangers du maillot, et du lait de femme. 1778, page 134.
M. Lascazes de Compayre: Dangers du maillot, et du lait de femme. 1778, page 134.[15-134]

– “si vingt especes de vins les plus fumeux & les plus violens, si les liqueurs les plus fortes ne coulent pas à grands flots dans leurs verres , elles n’en ont pas moins leurs sauces âcres & brûlantes, leurs ragoûts épicés, leurs aromates, leurs trufles, leurs vins forts, leur café & leur pousse-café, comme on dit; elles en ont toujours assez pour causer à leur estomac une irritation dangereuse.[15-134]

An encyclopaedia from 1783 writes: “Cold water taken immediately after a meal is better than anything that aids digestion. It does not have the disadvantages of some burning digestifs. Even the weakest stomachs will benefit from it. Coffee and all alcoholic liquors, commonly called pousse-café, do not bring the digestive powers to the natural level necessary for good digestion.” [14-79] [14-80]

Anonymus (François Rozier): Cours complet d’agriculture. Tome quatrième. Paris, 1783, page 79-80.
Anonymus (François Rozier): Cours complet d’agriculture. Tome quatrième. Paris, 1783, page 79-80. [14-79] [14-80]

– “L’eau froide prise immédiatement après le repas, est préférable à tout ce qui peut aider la digestion. Elle n’a pas les inconvéniens de certains digestifs incendiaires. Les estomacs les plus foibles retireront les meilleurs effets de son usage. Le café & toutes les liqueurs spiritueuses, qu’on appelle vulgairement pousse-café, ne remontent point les forces digestives au degré naturel & nécessaire à une bonne digestion.[14-79] [14-80]

A letter from Morocco, written in 1789, lets us know: “After leaving the table in an angelic manner and in the late afternoon, where both café and pousse-café were drunk, we left the General in his convent, a secularised monastery that still retains the name of its ancient Catholic dignity.” [16-13] [16-14]

Olof Agrell: Bref om Maroco. Stockholm, 1796, page 13-14.
Olof Agrell: Bref om Maroco. Stockholm, 1796, page 13-14. [16-13] [16-14]

– “Sedan vi på Ängelikt vis och sent på eftermiddagen upstigt ifrån bordet, där man drack både Caffé och Pousse-Caffé, lämnade vi Generalen i sit Convent, et seculariseradt Kloster, som ännu bibehâllet namnet af sin fordna Catholska värdighet.[16-13] [16-14]

Sir Walter Scott’s “Chronicles of the Canongate” were published in 1827 and 1828, [3] from which we have already quoted. In it he mentions the Chasse Café. [1-124] [12-124] Interestingly, if the year stated on the title page is correct, this work had already appeared in Paris a year earlier, in 1826. There, the term “Chasse-Café” was translated as “pousse-café”. [2-129]

Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine. Vol. 17, issue 199. 1850, page 419.
Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine. Vol. 17, issue 199. 1850, page 419. [4-419]

Chasse Café, however, was at least originally the more common term. This is suggested by the number of passages we have found, but also by a report from 1850, which states: “He was about to depart without taking his chasse (or, as it is now the fashion to call it, pousse café), when Jean pressed it upon him with the assurance that the eau-de-vie was of an unusually superior quality.” [4-419]

A dictionary from 1859 confirms what we have already said about the Chasse Café: “POUSSE-CAFÉ m. pop. (small liqueur glass drunk after coffee) Schnapps m.” [6-327]

Abbé Mozin: Supplément au dictionnaire complet des langues française et allemande. 1859, page 327.
Abbé Mozin: Supplément au dictionnaire complet des langues française et allemande. 1859, page 327. [6-327]

– “POUSSE-CAFÉ m. pop. (petit-verre de liqueur qu’on prend après le café) Schnaps m.” [6-327]

Gloria, Rincette, Sur-Rincette &c.

In a book on Parisian slang from 1866, we read: “POUSSE-CAFÉ, s. m. Small glass of liquor drunk after coffee – in the slang of the bourgeoisie.” [5-317]

Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 317.
Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 317. [5-317]

-“POUSSE-CAFÉ, s. m. Petit verre d’eau-de-vie pris après le café, — dans l’argot des bourgeois.” [5-317]

According to this entry, the pousee café is therefore something that the bourgeoisie drank in Paris and – since the term is supposed to be Parisian slang – received its name in Paris. In this context, this book provides further entries, namely:

“GLORIA, s. m. Cup of black coffee with a small glass of schnapps – in the jargon of the Limonadiers, who used this expression on the window panes of their shops.” [5-183]

Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 183.
Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 183. [5-183]

“GLORIA, s. m. Tasse de café noir avec un petit verre d’eau-de-vie , — dans l’argot des limonadiers, qui ont consacré cette expression sur les carreaux de leurs boutiques.” [5-183]

The name Gloria goes back at least as far as Chasse Café or Pousse Café. A book from 1750 provides us with an etymological explanation for the origin of the name Gloria: “GLOIRE. To be in the glory of Bacchus is to be drunk. Noah’s alcohol went to his head, and he found himself in the glory of Bacchus.” [13-163]

Anonymus (André Joseph Panckoucke): Dictionnaire des proverbes françois. 1750, page 163.
Anonymus (André Joseph Panckoucke): Dictionnaire des proverbes françois. 1750, page 163. [13-163]

– “GLOIRE. Etre dans la gloire de Bacchus, c’est, être ivre. La liqueur de Noé lui étant montée à la tête, il fe trouva dans la gloire de Bacchus.” [13-163]

This ‘Glory of Bacchus’ was probably a well-known expression; Christoph Langhanß already knew it and wrote about Batavia in a book published in 1705: “First of all, they pour Arack or Knip into warm tea water, add a little sugar and the boat people call this Gloria or children’s tea water.[18-200]

Christoph Langhanß: Neue Ost Indische Reise. 1705, page 200.
Christoph Langhanß: Neue Ost Indische Reise. 1705, page 200. [18-200]

– “Erstlich giessen Sie unter warm Thee-Wasser Arack oder Knip, thun etwas Zucker darein und solches nennen die Boots-Leute Gloria oder Kinder-Thee-Wasser.” [18-200]

The book on Parisian slang also contains the entry: “RINCETTE, s. f. Small glass of liquor drunk as an addition to the Gloria, – in the colloquial language of the citizens.[5-342]

Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 342.
Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 342. [5-342]

– “RINCETTE, s. f. Petit verre d’eau-de-vie pris comme supplément au gloria, — dans l’argot des bourgeois.[5-342]

And finally: “SUR-RINCETTE, s. f. Refill of the rincette, – in the colloquial language of the citizens.[5-367]

Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 367.
Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. 1866, page 367. [5-367]

“SUR-RINCETTE, s. f. Supplément à la rincette, — dans l’argot des bourgeois.[5-367]

Even though the terms mentioned in a book on Parisian slang, they were probably used throughout France. A book from 1869 reports: “In Normandy, stomachs are lined with zinc and throats are fireproof. At the end of a meal, it is customary for guests to have coffee, pousse-café, poussette, rincette and sur-incette.[9-97]

Amédée Achard: La vie errante. 1869, page 97.
Amédée Achard: La vie errante. 1869, page 97. [9-97]

– “En Normandie, les estomacs sont doublés de zinc, et les gosiers à l’épreuve du feu. À la fin d’un repas, l’usage veut que les convives prennent le café, le pousse-café, la poussette, la rincette et la sur-rincette.” [9-97]

Not without reason did the term ‘trou normand’, literally translated as ‘Norman hole’, originate. Wikipedia describes it as follows: “In French gastronomy, trou normand (Norman hole) is the term used to describe the custom of serving Calvados apple brandy, which is distilled in Normandy, between two courses – usually before the main course – during a break in the meal. … The Norman hole is intended to aid digestion and stimulate the appetite, i.e. to create space or a “hole” in the stomach before continuing the meal. This tradition can be traced back to the fact that the high-proof spirit, also known as gniole in the valley of the Risle, is said to have bactericidal properties that protect against stomach upsets after eating seafood if the drink is consumed immediately afterwards.[19]

A dictionary of the Norman dialect used in the department of Eure published in 1879 contains the following terms:

CONSOLATION. – Small glass of brandy. This is an addition to gloria (coffee with a small glass), which is the completion of all contracts concluded between Normans and even the smallest conversations on market days. – (Cf. gloria and coup à cheval).[11-113]

Paul Eugène Robin et al.: Dictionnaire du patois normand. 1879, page 113.
Paul Eugène Robin et al.: Dictionnaire du patois normand. 1879, page 113. [11-113]

– “CONSOLATION. — Petit verre d’eau-de-vie. C’est une addition au gloria (café avec petit verre) qui est la conclusion de tous les marchés passés entre Normands et même des moindres pourparlers les jours de marché. — (V. gloria et coup à cheval.)[11-113]

COUP À CHEVAL. – This is known elsewhere as the coup de l’étrier. On trade fair and market days in all the cafés in Pont-Audemer, Beuzeville, Routot, etc. Glorias and small glasses are consumed in huge quantities. Before saying goodbye to each other, there are a multitude of toasts, the names of which vary endlessly: consolation, coup à cheval, coup d’adieu, coup debout, etc. – I am also told of the variants pousse-café, rincette; I don’t want to check this myself. – (Cf. gloria and consolation.)[11-118] [11-119]

Paul Eugène Robin et al.: Dictionnaire du patois normand. 1879, page 118-119.
Paul Eugène Robin et al.: Dictionnaire du patois normand. 1879, page 118-119. [11-118] [11-119]

– “COUP À CHEVAL. — C’est ce qui s’appelle ailleurs le coup de l’étrier. Les jours de foire et de marché, on fait dans tous les cafés de Pont-Audemer, de Beuzeville, de Routot, etc., une effroyable consommation de glorias et de petits verres. Avant de se quitter, on multiplie les libations, dont le nom varie à l’infini: consolation, coup à cheval, coup d’adieu, coup debout, etc. — On me signale encore les variantes pousse-café, rincette; je ne tiens pas à vérifier moi-mème. — (V. gloria et consolation.)” [11-118] [11-119]

GLORIA. – In Normandy, as in most of France, Gloria means drinking a cup of black coffee with a small glass of eau-de-vie, which is almost always mixed with it. Where does this strange name come from? Could it be that the Gloria serves as a conclusion to meals, like the verse Gloria Patri to the psalms sung at vespers? Be that as it may, our Normans consume Gloria to an alarming degree, especially at fairs and markets. – (Cf. Consolation and Coup à cheval).[11-210]

Paul Eugène Robin et al.: Dictionnaire du patois normand. 1879, page 210.
Paul Eugène Robin et al.: Dictionnaire du patois normand. 1879, page 210. [11-210]

– “GLORIA. — En Normandie, comme dans presque toute la France, prendre du gloria, c’est avaler une tasse de café noir, accompagnée d’un petit verre de rogomme qu on y mèle presque toujours. D’où Tient ce nom bizarre? serait-ce de ce que le gloria sert de conclusion aux repas, comme la strophe Gloria Patri aux psaumes que l’on chante à vèpres? Quoi qu’il en soit, nos Normands font une effroyable consommation de gloria, surtout dans les foires et marchés. — (V. consolation et coup à cheval.)” [11-210]

Brewers dictionary of phrase and fable. 1922, page 219.
Brewers dictionary of phrase and fable. 1922, page 219. [8-219]

A book from 1922 confirms what has already been said: “Pousse café is now a common term for a liqueur after coffee.” [8-219] In the same book it is also written:  “Coffee. The Turkish word is qahwah, which is pronounced kahveh and is applied to the infusion only, not to the plant or its berries. Coffee was introduced into England in 1641; the first coffee-house in this country was opened at Oxford in 1650, and the first in London dates from the following year. It was an old custom in the Ardennes to take ten cups of coffee after dinner, and each cup had its special name. (1) Café, (2) Gloria, (3) Pousse Cafe, (4) Goutte, (5) Regoutte, (6) Surgoutte, (7) Rincette, (8) Re-rincette, (9) Sur-rincette, and (10) Coup de l’étrier. Gloria is coffee with a small glass of brandy in lieu of milk; those following it have an ever-increasing quantity of alcohol; and the last is the “stirrup cup.”[8-219]

Even if the book appears to be serious – after all, it comes across as a dictionary – the reference to the different names for a cup of coffee does not seem credible against the background of the other sources we found, because it probably mixes up the names for coffee with those for the accompanying or following liqueur.

Other terms were also in circulation, as a theatre play from 1862 reveals: ““Let us return to the flask” he continued, linking the example with the commandment “and let our Gloria turn into Consolation, one after the other, but always with new alcoholic additions… Reconsolation… Rincette… Surrincette… Contre-Surrincette… Pousse-Café…[10-94]

Charles Deslys: Le canal Saint-Martin. 1870, page 94.
Charles Deslys: Le canal Saint-Martin. 1870, page 94. [10-94]

“Retournons à la topette, — poursuivit-il en joignant l’exemple au précepte, — et que notre gloria se transforme successivement, mais toujours par de nouvelles additions alcooliques, en consolation… reconsolation… rincette… surrincette… contre-surrincette… pousse-café…” [10-94]

The omnipresence of the pousse café in the French way of life is documented in a book from 1871, in an article on “France and the French”: “The morning begins – I am never talking about elegant Parisians, and very rich people, they have European, not national customs – so the morning begins with the French in the south as in the north with thin coffee with lots of milk, which, after an unspeakable amount of spongy white bread has been broken into it, is eaten with a soup spoon from a deep bowl. The cotton nightcap, which we regularly found on the pillow in good houses, is then often worn and this first breakfast is sometimes eaten in the kitchen. At 12 o’clock the dejeuner follows, with 2 warm meat dishes, in the evening 6 or 7 o’clock the dinner with again 2 warm meat dishes; each of these meals is concluded with coffee and cognac. The wine is usually diluted with water, but cognac and absinthe play a not insignificant role. Trodu, in his account of the French army in 1867, mentions the gamme bachique, the Bachian scale, which is played daily and contains a considerable number of notes. Le pousse cafe. Le chasse cafe. Une pauvre petite larme. Le tord boyau. La consolation.” [7-122]

Beiheft zum Militär-Wochenblatt. 1871. Zweites Heft, page 122.
Beiheft zum Militär-Wochenblatt. 1871. Zweites Heft, page 122. [7-122]

– “Der Morgen beginnt — ich rede nie von eleganten Parisern, und sehr reichen Leuten, die haben europäische, nicht nationale Sitten — also der Morgen beginnt bei den Franzosen im Süden wie im Norden mit dünnem Kaffee mit vieler Milch, der, nachdem unsäglich viel schwammiges Weißbrod hineingebrockt ist, mit einem Suppenlöffel aus einer tiefen Schale gegessen wird. Die baumwollene Nachtmütze, die wir in guten Häusern regelmäßig auf dem Kopfkissen fanden, wird dann noch oft getragen und dies erste Frühstück bisweilen in der Küche verzehrt. Um 12 Uhr folgt das Dejeuner, mit 2 warmen Fleischspeisen, Abends 6 oder 7 Uhr das Diner mit wiederum 2 warmen Fleischspeisen; jede dieser Mahlzeiten wird mit Kaffee und Cognac geschlossen. Der Wein wird meist mit Wasser verdünnt, dagegen spielen Cognac und Absynth keine unbedeutende Rolle. Trodu, im seiner Schilderung der französischen Armee, 1867, erwähnt die gamme bachique, die bachische Tonleiter, die täglich gespielt wird und eine beträchtliche Zahl von Tönen enthält. Le pousse cafe. Le chasse cafe. Une pauvre petite larme. Le tord boyau. La consolation.” [7-122]

Not only France, but also Germany had its – very special – pousse café culture. The pousse café was varied there and was called Knickebein. More about this in the next part of this series.

Sources
  1. https://archive.org/details/chroniclescanon02scotgoog/page/n158/mode/2up?q=coffee Anonymus (Walter Scott): Chronicles of th Canongate. Vol. 1. Edinburgh, 1827.
  2. https://archive.org/details/oeuvrescompltes71scot/page/128/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Anonymus: Œvres complètes de Sir Walter Scott. Tome LXXI. Les chronique de la canongate. Paris, 1826
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronicles_of_the_Canongate Chronicles of Canongate.
  4. https://archive.org/details/sim_taits-edinburgh-magazine_1850-07_17_199/page/418/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine. Vol. 17, issue 199. Edinburgh, July 1850.
  5. https://archive.org/details/dictionnairedela00delv/page/316/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Alfred Delvau: Dictionnaire de la langue verte. Argots Parisiens comparés. Paris, 1866.
  6. https://archive.org/details/supplmentaudict00abbgoog/page/n325/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Abbé Mozin: Supplément au dictionnaire complet des langues française et allemande. Stuttgart und Augsburg, 1859.
  7. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_eYlA4ssC2BYC/page/122/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Beiheft zum Militär-Wochenblatt. 1871. Zweites Heft. Berlin, 1871.
  8. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.94120/page/n7/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Anonymus: Brewers dictionary of phrase and fable. Erweiterte Ausgabe der Erstauflage aus dem Jahr 1870. London, 1922.
  9. https://archive.org/details/lavieerrante00achagoog/page/n107/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Amédée Achard: La vie errante. Paris, 1869.
  10. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_gRv05j5dQv0C/page/n97/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Charles Deslys: Le canal Saint-Martin. (1870).
  11. https://archive.org/details/dictionnairedup00leugoog/page/n145/mode/2up?q=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22 Paul Eugène Robin, Auguste Le Prevost, Antoine-François Passy & Ernest Poret Blosseville: Dictionnaire du patois normand en usage dans le département de l’eure. 1879.
  12. https://archive.org/details/dli.bengal.10689.14029/page/n157/mode/2up?q=martha (Sir Walter Scott): Chronicles of the Canongate. Vol. 1. Edinburgh, 1827.
  13. https://archive.org/details/b30541694/page/162/mode/2up?q=caf%C3%A9+liqueur Anonymus (André Joseph Panckoucke): Dictionnaire des proverbes françois, et des façons de parler comiques, burlesques et familieres, etc., avec l’explication, et les etymologies les plus avérées. Frankfurt und Mainz, 1750.
  14. https://www.google.de/books/edition/Cours_complet_d_agriculture_theorique_pr/qYlYAAAAcAAJ?hl=de&gbpv=1&dq=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22&pg=PA80&printsec=frontcover Anonymus (François Rozier): Cours complet d’agriculture théorique, pratique, économique et de médecine rurale et vétérinaire, ou dictionnaire universel d’agriculture par proncipes; ou dictionnaire universel d’agriculture. Tome quatrième. Paris, 1783.
  15. https://www.google.de/books/edition/Dangers_du_maillot_et_du_lait_de_femme_m/Y4fZgCRCoLMC?hl=de&gbpv=1&dq=%22pousse+caf%C3%A9%22&pg=PA134&printsec=frontcover M. Lascazes de Compayre: Dangers du maillot, et du lait de femme; moyen d’y remedier, avis aux meres. Paris, 1778.
  16. https://www.google.de/books/edition/Bref_om_Maroco/hbBgAAAAcAAJ?hl=de&gbpv=1&dq=%22pousse+caff%C3%A9%22&pg=PA13&printsec=frontcover Olof Agrell: Bref om Maroco. Stockholm, 1796.
  17. https://defr.dict.cc/?s=pousser pousser.
  18. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_5ewpAAAAYAAJ/page/172/mode/2up?q=ponze Christoph Langhanß: Neue Ost Indische Reise. Leipzig, 1705.
  19. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trou_normand Trou normand.

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About

Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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