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Drink of the Week: Kir Royale

It's been a long time since I patted myself on the back for the novel idea of pouring a little Chambord into a bottle of Zima. I don't even know if you can still buy Zima anymore, but that seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, it wasn't such a unique concept—adding liqueur to sparkling beverages. In fact, it doesn't even have to be bubbly at all.

Named after Félix Kir (1876–1968), mayor of Dijon in Burgundy, the Kir was a drink that was originally made by pouring a measure of  crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) into a wine glass and then topping it up with wine. After World War II, there was an abundance of white wine in Burgundy, so Kir renovated the drink and used the surplus white wine in place of his original red. Today, we also have the Kir Royale which is essentially the same drink made with champagne.

It's as simple as it is elegant, but in France this is typically a café drink where they might ask you if you want it with blackcurrant, blackberry or peach. But why stop there? With all of the liqueurs available, your options are wide open. The only danger is that you end up with something too sweet, so the exact proportions are yours to adjust. Personally, I think it depends on the wine, sparkling or otherwise. If you start with a dry variety, it might be able to stand a bit more liqueur, but you run the risk of completely masking the wine's flavor, and that's no good either. And yet, if I took it a bit too far, I don't really see myself pouring anything down the drain, so it's hard to mess this up. It can be very tasty even if you are still working toward the right proportions.

Kir Royale
.5 oz creme de cassis
top with dry, sparkling wine

Add the liqueur to a wine glass and top up with cold, sparkling wine.

One of the things I love about this cocktail is how easy it is to make. There's no stirring or shaking if you can get a nice mix while you pour, and provided your wine is chilled, you don't even have to open the icebox. It's also great for parties when you want to add a bit of whimsy to an otherwise unremarkable white wine. You could even line up several choices for guests to dose their own glass. D'Amico Kitchen on the main floor of Le Meridien Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis even had a version on their cocktail menu made with Aperol and prosecco. Taking this into the bitter realm is a fantastic interpretation of this template and worthy of further exploration.

I know there isn't much "mixology" going on in this cocktail, but don't knock the drink. As I have stated before, it's never a bad time to open a bottle of champagne, and I still believe that. There's so much flexibility here after you commit to popping the cork that you can probably find a combination that's appealing. You could also switch gears and make the French 75, the Seelbach, or just drink the wine! If you haven't had the pleasure of adding some extra flavor to your bubbly, give it a shot. If you don't have any sparkling, just use a dry white wine—that was the original idea anyway. Now, if I could just lay my hands on some Zima. . .

5 comments to Drink of the Week: Kir Royale

  • Jeff

    Ah, you've let the world in on my kryptonite.

  • Jeff

    Well, I spent a long 4th of July afternoon in the French countryside and they served us these all day long. Ever since, I've been a sucker for these and a good British Buck's Fizz.

  • Lynda lowe

    Hi, won a bottle of Kir Royale not sure how to serve it, I have some Creme de Cassis in the drinks cupboard, can I just use a little cassis and make it up with the Royale or doesn it require a little more input please. X X

    • Lynda, I'm not sure what a bottle of Kir Royale might be, but as described above, the Kir cocktail is actually just white wine with some liqueur added. I doubt many folks really measure since you can adjust how much you add to suit your taste. The "Royale" version simply uses sparkling wine. If your bottle is a premixed version of this, you can just chill the bottle, then open and serve in cold glasses, adding more Cassis if you wish.

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