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When you hear the name Dijon it probably calls to mind the eponymous French mustard, so unique and delicious. But there is another iconic delight associated with the Burgundy town of Dijon. The Kir and Kir Royale hail from Dijon as well. Here’s the story…

The Story of The Kir Cocktail

During the second World War German soldiers absconded with the red wines of Burgundy and the French responded in a very French way. They created the “Resistance Cocktail”, Kir.

As the story is told, a resourceful priest, Canon Félix Kir, a hero in the French Resistance, and mayor of Dijon from 1945-1968, was a lover of all things local to Dijon, including the wines.

After the red wines were taken Fr. Félix created the very first Kir cocktail by combining the local Créme de Cassis, a black currant liqueur with a local white wine made from the Aligoté grape. The wine is a very dry, very acidic inked white with a neutral palate. The Aligoté wine balanced the sweetness of the liqueur and when the two were combined the color mimicked the pilfered pride of Burgundy.

It didn’t take long before residents of the region were raising their Kir cocktails and toasting the ingenuity of their favorite priest for whom the cocktail is named. Not only was the Kir cocktail a somewhat suitable substitute for the beloved red wine of Burgundy but it was a bit of a “ha-ha” to those who pinched their preferred quaff.

An Earlier Version

Another, less colorful version of the birth of the Kir cocktail dates back to the 19th century when it was called the Blanc-Cassis. Although it was similar to the priest’s later iteration, the original often included red wine in the mix. It was served prior to a meal or snack.

The Main Ingredient for Kir and Kir Royale

Créme de Cassis is made by crushing black currants in eau-de-vie, a colorless fruit brandy.Once the maceration is finished the skins and seeds of the black currants are strained away, leaving behind a deep crimson colored liqueur to which sugar is added.

The sweet, viscous, almost purple liqueur combined with the austere and acidic white wine makes an easy-in-the-palate fruit forward drink. The cocktail made its way out of Burgundy and there exists some version of this luscious libation, using other regional wines and liqueurs, throughout the world.

The Kir Royale

As the Kir cocktail evolved some creative soul added champagne instead of the dry white wine and the Kir Royale was born. The Kir Royale is a slightly more elevated version of the Kir cocktail and as such is often sipped for special celebration. However, much like the French believe, there is always a reason to celebrate!

How to Make an Exquisite Kir Royale

Aside from being a luscious cocktail the Kir Royale is quite easy to make. The splash of Créme de Cassis enhances the taste of champagne by introducing a slight berry flavored sweetness to the mix. The result is just as beautiful to look at as it is to sip.

The Kir and Kir Royal are meant to be more of a refreshing cocktail than a cloyingly sweet one. The color should be blush pink and light red. Anything darker results in a sweeter cocktail. The glassware you use is a personal choice however in France the Kir cocktail is served in a small white wine glass and the Kir Royale is presented in a champagne flute.

Here is one of our favorite recipes for an exquisite Kir Royale:

1/2 an ounce of Créme de Cassis

3 ounces good quality champagne

Garnish: a lemon twist and a few raspberries if you like.

Pour the Crème de Cassis into a champagne flute (or glassware of choice) and top with champagne. Enjoy!

Note: Some versions of Kir and Kir Royale use the raspberry liqueur Chambord in place of Créme de Cassis. While it is acceptable and makes a fine cocktail, to make an authentic Kir or Kir Royale you need to use Créme de Cassis.

Kir Royale