DOTW: Kir Royale

Posted by Anita on 01.18.08 7:09 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**In the pantheon of sparkling cocktails, there are a thousand lesser gods, and then there are the titans: the bright Mimosa, the elegant Champagne cocktail, the tart French 75, and the dusky Kir Royale. They’re generally a subtle lot, and so simple to make that you hardly need a recipe. They’re all lovely in their own ways and moods — Mimosas at brunch, Champagne cocktails at weddings, French 75s when you want to get into an argument about gin vs. brandy — but the Kir Royale is perhaps the most adaptable.

Until it was popularized by Catholic priest Félix Kir, the simple aperitif of white wine and blackcurrant liqueur was known quite aptly as blanc-cassis throughout its native Burgundy. But then, history intervened. An active organizer in the Resistance during World War II, Monsieur Kir helped plan the escape of more than 5,000 prisoners of war. After the Liberation, Kir was elected mayor of Dijon — the Burgundian capital — and eventually took his place in the French national assembly. He was the last clergy member to wear the habit in the halls of the Palais Bourbon, and he always toasted delegations visiting Dijon with the aperitif that perfectly marries two of the town’s best tipples.

The original Kir is made by dosing white wine — not, as some would say, Burgundy’s reknowned Chablis, but rather the slightly sour Aligoté — with Dijon’s equally famous blackcurrant liqueur, creme de cassis. The Kir Royale makes things a bit more festive by replacing the white wine with Champagne, an inspired substitution that moves an everyday apero into the realm of celebratory cocktail.

The Kir Royale also makes a perfect party drink, as it’s low in alcohol — best for guests who may not be accustomed to knocking back a few high-octane libations in an evening — and quite forgiving of measurement-free mixing. After all, what host wants to spend time fiddling with precisely a half-ounce of this and exactly three shakes of that when there are guests to greet, coats to hang, conversation to encourage, and appetizers to primp?

We’re having a few friends over for cocktails and canapés tomorrow night, and one of the ways we’re planning to keep things simple is by setting up a do-it-yourself Champagne bar. We’ll put a case of bubbly on ice, line up a couple dozen flutes, and gather a gaggle of colorful liqueurs — cassis, St-Germain, absinthe, violette, Chartreuse — for guests to customize their drinks. We’ll have syrups, garnishes, and bitters, too, plus a sheet with ideas on how to mix and match. It’ll be fun to see an assortment of pastel sparklers in the hands of our pals; I can’t wait to see what our clever friends concoct.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**20px.jpg

Kir Royale
1/4 to 1/2 ounce crème de cassis (or to taste)
Champagne or other dry sparkling wine

Pour the cassis into the flute, and top with the bubbly.
Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.

Drink of the Week, drinks, entertaining, recipes, wine & bubbly



Comment by Eddie

The one thing you MUST mention is what a difference cassis quality makes.

I’m fond of the Gabriel Boudier cassis, which has a rich, deep, full-fruited flavor–as compared to the often too-sickly-sweet supermarket easily-found varieties.

Best of all, it’s easy to get from Bevmo:

Posted on 01.18.08 at 8:51AM

Comment by aforkfulofspaghetti

Wow – I envy your guests! I haven’t had a Kir Royale in quite a while – and now I feel a sudden urge to find the nearest cocktail bar…

Posted on 01.18.08 at 9:06AM

Comment by sam

Hey – this is nothing special – it’s just a list of my daily libations ;)

My parties are often based on do it yourself kir royales too. Best idea ever.

Posted on 01.18.08 at 9:13AM

Comment by Melissa R

Champagne bar is the best.idea.ever. I will definitely be using that at the next brunch at the melicobs! Thanks for the inspiration using my favorite food group!

Posted on 01.18.08 at 9:58AM

Comment by tastememory girl

ohhh – that is so pretty, I luv that fluted glass – a must try on my list!

Posted on 01.18.08 at 10:46AM

Comment by Thomas Crubaugh

Anita-you’ve done it again with a deep background story that reminds me of “Wine and War” have you read it? The champagne bar sounds like the key to getting some of my “straight” friends (in terms of how they drink) to get the idea that mixed drinks are at least as good.
Eddie- thank for the cassis tip.

Posted on 01.18.08 at 11:11AM

Comment by cookiecrumb

Oh no! I’ll be pouring a mudpie, I fear (a little dirt, some pebbles for texture, hey how about that leaf, oh and some sand). I need guidance.
Your photo is stunning as usual. Saw it on Tastespotting first.

Posted on 01.18.08 at 11:14AM

Comment by Anita

Eddie: You’re much more of a connoisseur than we are! I agree that the cheapo supermarket stock is a no-no, but I haven’t noticed a huge difference between the better cassis brands — at least in the small quantities that a Kir Royale requires.
AFOS: Glad to be of inspiration!

Sam: Hey, I steal all of my best ideas from brilliant bloggers. ;)

Melissa: Thank you! It does seem like a fun brunch idea, doesn’t it?

TMG: I love those glasses, too. They’re so adaptable.

Thomas: I haven’t read W&W, but Cameron read that book a few years ago. I just moved our copy to a different shelf this morning. Eerie! And yes, I had our non-cocktailian friends very much in mind when I decided to go the Champagne bar route, too.

Cookie: Fret not, cherie. We’ll be on hand for guidance -and- there will be a cheat-sheet. I promise, we won’t let anyone go thirsty :)

Posted on 01.18.08 at 11:34AM

Comment by Jennifer Hess

Okay, so what time should we be over? ;)

Posted on 01.18.08 at 12:34PM

Comment by rachel

I can’t wait to see (hear about) what they create either, more DOTW! Have fun!

Posted on 01.18.08 at 9:57PM

Comment by Tartelette

It is probably my favorite “aperitif”, it actually the first drink my grandfather made me when I was wee-tall. I love that your pictures captures the lovely shade of the cassis and the bubbles of the Champagne. What a lovely way to celebrate friendship!

Posted on 01.19.08 at 11:14AM

Comment by Gina Hyams

I’ve just recently stumbled upon your blog. Love it.

Posted on 01.20.08 at 1:10PM

Comment by Vidiot

Nifty idea! I’d be interested in seeing your cheatsheet — I often wonder about how to introduce my non-cocktailian friends to the glory that is a well-made mixed drink, especially without verging into pedantry or snobbishness. Would you consider posting it?

Posted on 01.20.08 at 1:12PM

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[...] Since we were off to some friends’ house for Cocktails & Canapes last evening, I made a pretty simple Saturday night dinner. [...]

Posted on 01.20.08 at 10:12PM

Comment by Karl Schwende

Another fun take on the Kir is the Kir Imperial which uses Framboise instead of Cassis… It’s all a bit fruity for me but tasty never the less!

Posted on 01.21.08 at 9:24AM

Comment by teetotaler

Not to be overly prudish, but…

In suggesting this for those “unaccustomed” to “high-octane libations” I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that those who are so accustomed are not actually impaired (and thus unfit to drive) by the alcohol they consume.

Because, I’m sure I don’t need to say, this isn’t true. Those who are so accustomed are simply better at masking the effects of alcohol (and thus appearing normal) while still suffering from the reduction in judgment, dexterity, and reaction times like their teetotaling counterparts.

Posted on 01.21.08 at 10:05AM

Comment by Anita

Jennifer: Let us know when your plane gets in and we’ll pick you up at BART :)

Rachel: You’re prescient — we do indeed have a DOTW brewing with one of the party finds!

Helen: Sounds like a much better kiddie cocktail than the creme de menthe frappe that my grandparents gave me! :)

Gina: Thank you :)

Vidiot: Happy to share. I’ll post the document to GoogleDocs later tonight and post a link here. But I really made things simple by listing measurements as “a splash of…” or “a hearty splash of…” and picking combinations that worked well even if they were a bit weak or strong.

Karl: Yum — we love all the red berries.

Prudish? No. Ridiculously patronizing? Yes.

I’m not sure where you get the idea that I was in any way implying that people who drink regularly are somehow immune to intoxication.

Given that we live in a major city, a large majority of our guests arrive by taxi, on foot, or via public transit. They’re also grownups who know how to moderate their drinking and/or hang out at a party until they’re sober.

I’m not sure why someone named ‘Teetotaler’ feels the need to troll around on a cocktail post, but we’re all immensely flattered by your concern.

Posted on 01.21.08 at 10:27AM

Comment by Chez Denise et Laudalino

Love this post! Love champagne! I am completely ready to leave the office and try some of these out. Anyway, I could talk you into a peek at your list you gave your guests for ideas on combinations? I hope to see more photos of this champagne event on flickr! YUMMY!

Posted on 01.21.08 at 12:04PM

Comment by dana mccauley

I’m with Eddie. Not only does the sparkling bit need to be good quality, but good cassis can make or break a kir royale.

Gawd, after reading this post and the comments thread I’m totally craving bubbly. I think there is a bottle of Lanson in the cellar. WOuld it be wildly to wrong to pop it open on a Tuesday night when I’m home alone? Even if I promise not to drive and to admit that I feel the effects?

Posted on 01.22.08 at 5:59PM

Comment by Anita

Vidiot & Denise: There’s a shot here of the drink cheat-sheet:

Dana: You have our permission :D

Posted on 01.23.08 at 8:11PM

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