Pousse Rapière: The Apéritif from Gascony
I could put a year on the Pousse Rapière, the local apéritif from the Gascony region of France in the southwest, and that would be the year I discovered it. During a Tour de France holiday by car that took us from the shores of Nice and looped around the coast towards Paris, we became acquainted with the regional drink that we brought back from our travels.
Pousse Rapière (pron. pouss rap-yehr) is defined as liqueur à l’armagnac. The sweet and aromatic liqueur has 24% alcohol and is made from a well-guarded method containing Armagnac and flavoured with orange. The Monluc family claims to have developed the regional drink. Today, it is still produced by Château de Monluc in the Gascon village of Saint-Puy.
With an unusual name steeped in history, the regional liqueur evokes curiosity. A rapière or rapier, is the name given to the ancient épée used by the mousquetaires. It is also said that it was the arm worn by Blaise de Monluc, a marshall of France, when he was a soldier. Pousse rapière translates as the “rapier’s push”, and is supposedly the effect it has when one drinks it neat.
Sipped straight up, the concentration of flavours and alcohol can be a little overpowering. More commonly, it is served as a lighter and easy to prepare cocktail.
1 part Pousse Rapière to 6 parts of Vin Sauvage make up the aromatic aperitif. Vin Sauvage is the local sparkling wine that is left to ferment in the bottle using a traditional method. Champagne, vin mousseux, blanc de blanc pétillant or any dry sparkling wine can be substituted. Ice can be added as well a slice of orange to decorate the cocktail.
The apéritif has a special glass in which the cocktail can be prepared and served. The glass has a similar shape to a small Champagne flute with a rapier etched on the side. You simply add enough liqueur to reach the bottom of the rapier then you top up with Champagne to the top of the rapier. The glass gives it the required 1 to 6 parts without the need for a cocktail measure.
Next trip to France, I will be on the lookout for a couple of these glasses to bring home.
Just as Pineau des Charentes is native to the Charentes region, Pousse Rapière is the specialty of Gascogne. If you find yourself in the southwest of France, order a Pousse Rapière as an apéro. Château de Monluc conducts free guided tours and you can learn more about the history of the drink, another reason to immerse yourself in the discovery of the lesser known drinking pleasures that France offers the traveller.
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